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FAR AND NEAR—Neil Peart 2014 calendar

Published December 29, 2013 in Writing - 0 Comments

As January 1 approaches,  many people are making Resolutions…but *everybody* needs a new calendar.

For years now, my friend Neil Peart (Rush drummer and lyricist) and I have each produced—and exchanged—an annual calendar filled with our own photos and stories. It’s a special treat for our fans and colleagues, and each year we try to raise the bar a little higher in an attempt to “out-snazz” each other.  Neil just released his new FAR AND NEAR calendar filled with photos of his motorcycle journeys over the past year, mostly during the Clockwork Angels tour.  You can order your copy at neilpeart.net.

For my own 2014 calendar, my brother-in-law and hiking partner Tim put together photos and stories about our wilderness adventures. This one contains some of our most spectacular images yet of the Colorado wilderness.  Order a signed copy by clicking on the buy button to the left. Price includes shipping.  After all, every household needs at least TWO calendars…

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Santa Claus Is Coming to Get You!

Published December 24, 2013 in Writing - 0 Comments

Here’s a special holiday story for all my fans on Christmas Eve (but, fair warning, don’t expect it to be heartwarming!)

Santa Claus Is Coming To Get You!

Kevin J. Anderson

’Twas the night before the night before Christmas, and all through the house little sounds were stirring … sinister, creeping, whispers of noise. Echoes of things better left unseen in the darkness, even around the holiday season.

Jeff stared up at the bottom of his little brother’s bunk. Ever since Stevie had gotten rid of the night light, he always feared that the upper bunk would fall on top of him and squish him flat.

A strong gust of wind rattled the windowpane. Wet snow brushing against it sounded like the hiss of a deadly snake, but he could hear that his brother was not asleep. “Stevie? I thought of something about Christmas.”

“What?” The voice was muffled by Stevie’s ratty blue blanket.

“Well, Santa keeps a list of who’s naughty and nice, right? So, what does he do to the kids who’ve been naughty?” He didn’t know why he asked Stevie. Stevie wouldn’t know.

“They don’t get any presents, I guess.… Do you really think Mom and Dad are that mad at us?”

Jeff sucked in a breath. “We were playing with matches, Stevie! We could have burned the house down—you heard them say that. Imagine if we burned the house down.… Besides, it doesn’t matter if Mom and Dad are angry. What’ll Santa think?”

Jeff swallowed. He had to get the ideas out of his head. “I gotta tell you this, Stevie, because it’s important. Something a kid told me at school.

“He said that it isn’t Santa who puts presents out when you’re good. It’s just your Mom and Dad. They wait until you go to sleep, and then they sneak out some presents. It’s all pretend.”

“Oh come on!”

“Think about it. Your parents are the ones who know what you really want.” He pushed on in a whisper. “What if Santa only comes when you’re bad?”

“But we said we were sorry! And … and it wasn’t my idea—it was yours. And nothing got hurt.”

Jeff closed his eyes so he wouldn’t see the bottom of the upper bunk. “I think Santa looks for naughty little boys and girls. That’s why he comes around on Christmas Eve.

“He sneaks down the chimney, and he carries an empty sack with him. And when he knows he’s in a house where there’s a naughty kid, he goes into their bedroom and grabs them, and stuffs them in the sack! Then he pushes them up the chimney and throws the bag in the back of his sleigh with all the other naughty little boys and girls. And then he takes them back up north where it’s always cold and where the wind always blows—and there’s nothing to eat.”

Jeff’s eyes sparkled from hot tears. He thought he heard Stevie shivering above him.

“What kind of food do you think Santa gets up there at the North Pole? How does Santa stay so fat? I bet all year long he keeps the naughty kids he’s taken the Christmas before and he eats them! He keeps them locked up in icicle cages … and on special days like on his birthday or on Thanksgiving, he takes an extra fat kid and he roasts him over a fire! That’s what happens to bad kids on Christmas Eve.”

Jeff heard a muffled sob in the upper bunk. He saw the support slats vibrate. “No, it’s not true. We weren’t that bad. I’m sorry. We won’t do it again.”

Jeff closed his eyes. “You better watch out, Stevie, you better not cry. ’Cause Santa Claus is coming to get you!”

He heard Stevie sucking on the corner of his blanket to keep from crying. “We can hide.”

Jeff shook his head in despair. “No. He sees you when you’re sleeping, and he knows when you’re awake. We can’t escape from him!”

“How about if we lock the bedroom door?”

“That won’t stop Santa Claus! You know how big he is from eating all those little kids. And he’s probably got some of his evil little elves to help him.”

He listened to Stevie crying in the sheets. He listened to the wind. “We’re gonna have to trick him. We have to get Santa before he gets us!”

•••

On Christmas Eve Dad turned on the Christmas tree lights and hung out the empty stockings by the fireplace. He grinned at the boys who stared red-eyed in fear.

“You guys look like you’re so excited you haven’t been able to sleep. Better go on to bed—it’s Christmas tomorrow, and you’ve got a long night ahead of you.” He smiled at them. “Don’t forget to put out milk and cookies for Santa.”

Mom scowled at them. “You boys know how naughty you were. I wouldn’t expect too many presents from Santa this year.”

Jeff felt his heart stop. He swallowed and tried to keep anything from showing on his face. Stevie shivered.

“Oh, come on, Janet. It’s Christmas Eve,” Dad said.

Jeff and Stevie slowly brought out the glass of milk and a plate with four Oreo cookies they had made up earlier. Stevie was so scared he almost dropped the glass.

They had poured strychnine pellets into the milk, and put rat poison in the frosting of the Oreos.

“Go on boys, good night. And don’t get up too early tomorrow,” Dad said.

The two boys marched off to their room, heads down. Visions of Santa’s blood danced in their heads.

•••

Jeff lay awake for hours, sweating and shivering. He and Stevie didn’t need to say anything to each other. After Mom and Dad went to bed, the boys listened for any sound from the roof, from the chimney.

He pictured Santa Claus heaving himself out from the fireplace, pushing aside the grate and stepping out into the living room. His eyes were red and wild, his fingers long claws, his beard tangled and stained with the meal he’d had before setting out in his sleigh—perhaps the last two children from the year before, now scrawny and starved. He would have snapped them up like crackers.

And now Santa was hungry for more, a new batch to restock his freezer that was as big as the whole North Pole.

Santa would take a crinkled piece of paper out of his pocket to look at it, and yes there under the ‘Naughty’ column would be the names of Jeff and Stevie in all capital letters. He’d wipe the list on his blood-red coat.

His black belt was shiny and wicked looking, with the silver buckle and its pointed corners razor sharp to slash the throats of children. And over his shoulder hung a brown burlap sack stained with rusty splotches.

Then Santa would go to their bedroom. Jeff and Stevie could struggle against him, they could throw their blankets on him, hit him with their pillows and their toys—but Santa Claus was stronger than that. He would reach up first to snatch Stevie from the top bunk and stuff him in the sack.

And then Santa would lunge forward with fingers grayish blue from frostbite. He’d wrap his hand around Jeff’s throat and draw him toward the sack.…

Then Santa would haul them up through the chimney to the roof. Maybe he would toss one of them toward the waiting reindeer who snorted and stomped their hooves on the ice-covered shingles. And the reindeer, playing all their reindeer games, would toss the boy from sharp antler to sharp antler.

All the while, Santa stood leaning back, glaring and belching forth his maniacal “Ho! Ho! Ho!”

•••

Jeff didn’t know when his terror dissolved into fitful nightmares, but he found himself awake and alive the next morning.

“Stevie!” he whispered. He was afraid to look in the pale light of dawn, half-expecting to find blood running down the wall from the upper bunk. “Stevie, wake up!”

Jeff heard a sharp indrawn breath. “Jeff! Santa didn’t get us.”

They both started laughing. “Come on, let’s go see.”

They tumbled out of bed, then spent ten minutes dismantling the barricade of toys and small furniture they had placed in front of the door. The house remained still and quiet around them. Nothing was stirring, not even a mouse.

Jeff glanced at the dining room table as they crept into the living room. The cookies were gone. The milk glass had been drained dry.

Jeff looked for a contorted, red-suited form lying in the corner—but he saw nothing. The Christmas tree lights blinked on and off; Mom and Dad had left them on all night.

Stevie crept to the Christmas tree and looked. His face turned white as he pulled out several new gift-wrapped boxes. All marked “FROM SANTA.”

“Oh, Jeff! Oh, Jeff—you were wrong! What if we killed Santa!”

They both gawked at the presents.

“Jeff, Santa took the poison!”

Jeff swallowed and stood up. Tears filled his eyes. “We have to be brave, Stevie.” He nodded. “We better go tell Mom and Dad.” He shuddered, then screwed up his courage.

“Let’s go wake them up.”

•••

This is only one of the holiday tales in A FANTASTIC HOLIDAY SEASON. It’s not too late for tales of the season!  Order from WordFire Press

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CLOCKWORK ANGELS Graphic Novel—Meet the Artist, Nick Robles

Published December 23, 2013 in Writing - 0 Comments

The comic adaptation of CLOCKWORK ANGELS proceeds full steam ahead, and everything is going like clockwork!  Boom! Studios will release the first issue in mid-March of the six-issue series. I’ve written the first script, with the enthusiastic Neil Peart stamp of approval, and we’ve also looked at the work of various artists that Boom! suggested.

We were very pleased to see the samples from Nick Robles, best known for his work in the gaming industry, and we felt that his style had the right kind of flavor, a flair for color, sense of wonder, innocence, fabulous imagination.  Neil and I both loved his work.  And when Nick started sending a flood of concept sketches of the characters—Owen Hardy, Mr. Paquette, Lavinia, the Pedlar, the Watchmaker, the Anarchist—and steamliners, the pedlar’s steampunk cart, we knew we had the right guy.  AND he’s a Rush fan, so what more could we ask for?

Look at his portrait of Owen Hardy. (Click to enlarge)

Nick Robles is a twenty five year old artist from Louisiana.  Self-taught, he works with digital art as his main medium, leaving sculpting and oil painting as a personal hobby. He has dabbled in the arts as far back as he can remember – whether it be drawing, music, or writing – and he can’t see the dabbling going away anytime soon.  Something he’s quite all right with.

When asked about his influences, Nick named J.C. Leyendecker, Norman Rockwell, Brom, Donato Giancola, J.W. Waterhouse, Mike Mignola and Adam Hughes…among various others.  In his spare time, he enjoys playing video games, reading comics, and enjoying a good movie (or a bad one!)

Nick is thrilled to be working with BOOM! Studios on the Clockwork Angels project and is very humbled to be bumping shoulders with a professional comic company and the myriad of other big names on the team. In his own words, “I’ve never felt so gratefully overwhelmed with a project, and the faith put in me.  I hope this is the start to a wonderful career, and I can’t wait until the first book is finished and in print.”

Look at more of Nick Robles’s great work at his website.

The comic will be released to coincide with the trade paperback reissue of CLOCKWORK ANGELS: the Novel from ECW.

In preparation for the comic adaptation, I just finished rereading the novel myself, returning to the world of Albion and Atlantis, the Watchmaker and the Anarchist. It is a wonderful place, and I loved going back there. Better yet, this time I listened to the full unabridged audiobook, read by Neil Peart—so it was like having him read aloud to me as I worked out in the gym every morning.  Now that was a great experience.

You can PREORDER the first issue of CLOCKWORK ANGELS right now for $3.99

All is for the best!

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Inducted as CHALLENGER CENTER Board Member

Published December 22, 2013 in Writing - 0 Comments

Last week I traveled to Washington, DC to attend a meeting for the Challenger Center for Space Science Education (www.challenger.org), where I was inducted as a full member of the Board of Directors.

Rebecca and I have been long-time supporters of the Challenger Centers, attending many local events at our Colorado Springs Challenger Center as well as national events, such as a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on the 25th anniversary of the Challenger accident.  Now, as the 28th anniversary of Challenger approaches, I am proud to be a member of this great organization, whose goal is to make sure that young students get interested in science and space exploration.

Why is that so important to me? As a science fiction writer I want to ensure that the next generation will reach for the stars.

Rebecca and I worked with Challenger founder June Scobee Rodgers to write three science-oriented space adventures for young readers, the STAR CHALLENGERS series, which WordFire Press will reissue in digest paperbacks in the next couple of weeks. These stories are a great way to get kids interested in the future while (accidentally) learning science in the meantime.

I arrived in Washington and spent the afternoon with friend Kenneth Killiany, who gave me a tour of the DC area, and then that evening I attended a reception at the Carriage House on Capitol Hill with June Scobee Rodgers, founder of the Challenger Centers and very dear friend, Lance Bush (president and CEO of the Challenger Centers), Gwen Griffin, Chairman of Challenger, as well as General Don Rodgers, NASA Administrator Charles F. Boldin, and other Challenger Centers personnel. I even had to dress up in jacket, tie, and overcoat, which is definitely not my natural outfit!  I was able to show off proof copies of the new editions of the STAR CHALLENGERS books.

Lance Bush, June Scobee Rodgers, Kevin J Anderson. Gwen Griffin

The following day, Friday, was an eight-hour meeting of the Challenger Center Board members to discuss strategies for the following year.  At times I had difficulty translating the “Washington-speak,” but I listened to the ambitious plans and exciting times ahead.  I presented brochures and talked about the LIFEBOAT FOUNDATION, another future-thinking organization. I am also a member of the Lifeboat Foundation’s Advisory Board (see my recent blog), and I suggested that Challenger and Lifeboat might have shared interests.  I also talked about the reissues of the STAR CHALLENGERS books.

That night I had dinner with another friend, Kevin Killiany, who came up to meet me, and the following day I spent time with Kevin and Kenneth Killiany to discuss a project for WordFire Press, possibly the most major titles we will produce—more details to follow.  In the afternoon, Kenneth and I went to the Air and Space Museum, which seemed an appropriate way to wrap up the trip.

That night I had dinner with Jillian, the all-powerful Fairy Godmother (and cupcake lady) who runs Rushcon each year, and we talked about me coming back as a guest again, to feature the CLOCKWORK ANGELS graphic novel as well as another Rush project I am putting together with Phil Simon.

The following day I traveled back home from Washington, and on the flight I came close to finishing Draft 4 of HELLHOLE INFERNO, which I have since wrapped up and delivered to Brian Herbert.  Now, trying to get acclimated again to my own bed as all the relatives visit for the holidays.

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