Pre-orders are Open!

Pre-orders for Schlock Mercenary: Massively Parallel and for the 2015 Schlock Mercenary Monthly Calendar are now open. We also have slipcases for books six through eleven, and we reprinted the slipcases for books one through five.

UPDATE: We've sold out of sketched books, but the sketch option for 2015 calendars is still available.

Here are links:

If you buy the boxed sets, the box (which is very sturdy and beautiful) is free!

Tagon and Extreme Napping, Howard and Extreme Angst

Two weeks ago I was at the Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat*, and I tried something I've never tried before at a writing retreat--I worked on comics.
 
That went pretty well. I cranked out eight days of inks while listening to seminars from Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, and Mary Robinette Kowal.
 
I also tried working on the calendar art. That went less well. The art is on much larger pages, but there are no inclined drafting tables at Woodthrush Woods, and the light just wasn't good enough for my poor old eyes.
 
That said, here's the finished version of the piece I was working on:
 

 
It never got to this point at the retreat, though. It did get to the point that I was using strong language in public spaces.
 
I wasn't even able to get the foreground finished--the poor hover-table was just an elliptical squiggle and a couple of boxes that only I knew were destined to become a tall drink and a handgun. I did finish Tagon and his Hammock of Extreme Napping, but I wasn't happy with some of the lines. I could tell that I was making bad decisions about where to put the ink, so I needed to stop.
 
It was really frustrating, and by the end of that session my eyes hurt and I was convinced the piece was ruined forever.
 
Fortunately I was also aware of the fact that I've rescued hopelessly ruined art before, so I packed the piece home, where I was able to go to work on the background in the warm, bright light of our front room, standing at the drafting table that has seen 8 years of Schlock Mercenary slide across its surface.
 
I'm happy with the result. Randy Tayler (my brother, who has been following the comic since before anybody else) said it's one of the best things I've ever drawn. I'm inclined to agree. I guess the lesson here is that even the very best projects often hit a spot where they look hopeless, and success as an artist depends on being able to push past that spot.
 
Once Travis colors it (and I cannot wait to see what THAT looks like) this will be the April 2015 page in the 2015 Schlock Mercenary Monthly Calendar. Pre-orders for that will open tomorrow at 8am Mountain Time, at the same time we open pre-orders for Massively Parallel, "Munitions Canister 2" slipcases, and the re-print of "Munitions Canister 1" slipcases.
 
We haven't released two Schlock Mercenary books in one year since 2006, and back then the two books we did had a total of 180 pages between them. This year we will have released 416 pages of of Schlock Mercenary once Massively Parallel joins Longshoreman of the Apocalypse, and while the 2015 calendar isn't quite the same thing, I'm going to count it as another 24 pages, because that'll bring us up to 440.
 
And speaking of comics, I really need to sit down and draw some.
 

 
*Note: We're doing the Out of Excuses thing again next year, only it'll be on a cruise ship.
 
(cross-posted from howardtayler.com)

The Cuckoo's Egg by Cliff Stoll

 
On the final evening of the 2014 Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat, Mary Robinette Kowal and I sat with students and talk about historical stuff, and Mary brought up some fun 18th- and 19th- century spy techniques.
 
I realized that the 1980's are far enough back that the spy tech from that era seems weird and outdated. And that reminded me of a book I skimmed while working at Novell in the '90s. I spouted a quick synopsis at the students, and realized that it might be fun for me to re-read.
 
So I bought a copy online and re-read it on my iPad, and as I did so I realized that the reason I was able to do this is because guys like Clifford Stoll took it upon themselves to build "trustworthiness" into the digital and social structures of the Internet 25 years ago.
 
The Cuckoo's Egg, by Cliff Stoll, is a non-fiction account of the author's discovery of a far-reaching, insidious hack, uncovered because of what looked like an accounting error. The technology he describes is antiquated, but the logic behind the hacker's exploits remains valid today, and Stoll's attempts to rally the authorities demonstrate how very unprepared we were back in 1987 for the big disruptions of next 20 years.
 
It's dry in spots, and didactic in others, but I plowed through it voraciously. Stoll's descriptions of the Internet of 1987 seem kind of quaint, but they're also spot-on for his time.  His political views were very refreshing--he writes as a self-proclaimed liberal hippie, and yet he had to work with the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, the Army, and the Air Force for an entire year. This was pretty conflicting for him, and for his friends, and was every bit as interesting to me as the computer stuff.
 
I met Cliff Stoll in 2006 at an Apache conference where he and I were keynote speakers. It was kind of cool to realize that he was one of the giants upon whose shoulders my entire business model was standing, and yet we had lots of common ground. In re-reading The Cuckoo's Egg I found a chapter in which young Clifford Stohl sat down and talked to a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, asking for advice, and yes, there seemed to be some symmetry there for me.
 
[EDIT: As was pointed out by a reader, Cliff Stoll can be found making 3D immersions of Klein bottles with his family in Oakland, California. Looking for something awesome for that person who already seems to have everything? Look no further.]
 
(cross-posted from howardtayler.com)

Massively Parallel Pre-Orders Open on Wednesday

Pre-orders for Schlock Mercenary: Massively Parallel, the eleventh in the current series, will open on Wednesday, October 15th, at around 8:00 AM Mountain time. 

This is the largest Schlock Mercenary book we've ever done. 255 full-color pages, lots of new margin art and footnotes, and a 13 page bonus story that features my writing atop art from me, Brenda Hickey, Keliana Tayler, and Travis Walton

We're also going to be opening pre-orders for the 2015 calendar at the same time. This will save you money on shipping, but wait, there's more. (Because there's always but-wait-there's-more.)

The slipcase for books 6 through 11 is part of this same print run. Yes, the slipcase, Massively Parallel, and the calendar will all fit inside a single flat-rate postage box. And if you haven't yet grabbed Book 10, Longshoreman of the Apocalypse, that'll fit too! 

Do you not yet have a slipcase for the first five books? Well, we reprinted those, so they'll be back in stock. Yes, we'll have boxed-set bundles available for the first five books as well as for books 6 through 11, and you'll also be able to buy empty slipcases. (Of course, the bundle prices miiight tempt you into buying full slipcases, and then giving the extra books to a friend.)

(cross-posted from howardtayler.com)

The Boxtrolls

The Boxtrolls is quirky, funny, dark, and a little disturbing in all of my favorite ways. I enjoyed it, but I can see lots of places where folks might not think it's their thing. Then again, there are probably other folks who will love it a lot more than I did. It comes in just a hair below my Threshold of Awesome.

It's dark for a kids' movie, but it's definitely a kids' movie. You can tell because all the adults are either evil, disinterested, or too stupid to help, leaving our young heroes in charge of fixing things themselves. A trope, yes, but handled in ways that I found very satisfying.

Did I mention that this film is beautiful? Oh, my. I don't even know where to start. Even the ugly bits were beautiful. This is one that I may want to own on Blu-Ray just so I can freeze scenes and stare deeply into the designs. On that note, though, the poster above does it a great disservice. It hints at some of the energy of the film, but fails completely to catch the spirit or the beauty of it.

(cross-posted from howardtayler.com)

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