Author Archives: hccummings

About hccummings

Here you will find out about Hans's writing and other projects. Feel free to leave comments. As time goes by, this site will become more sophisticated and hopefully, be able to provide you with all the information you need about his novels, short stories, and fantasy & sci-fi worlds.

Zack Jackson 4 Delays – A Eulogy of Sorts

So, I had hoped to have Zack Jackson & The Secret of Venus all wrapped up by the Fourth of July, but unfortunately, last weekend brought with it tragedy with threw the rest of our week into disarray.

Saturday, my cat slept all day. Literally; we couldn’t get her to wake up for more than a few minutes at a time. When she did wake up, she seemed to have trouble walking. Our day was fairly normal; we didn’t realize until the evening that she had not, in fact, done ANYTHING all day besides sleep (she was 17 years old, so she slept a lot).

We took her to the Vet ER (not my first choice, since the vets at that particular location don’t really know how to handle my cat. They did their poke and prodding thing, gave her some IM fluids (couldn’t get an IV in because she was a bit dehydrated) and an appetite stimulant. We weren’t able to get that in her, but we were able to give her the other medicine she’d been on since we moved; an anti-anxiety drug that also served as a pain killer.

Things seemed OK after that. Sunday, she was still lethargic, though not as much as she was Saturday. Her left hind leg seemed to be bothering her and we knew she had a bit of arthritis in that knee. I had made an appointment at her regular veterinary office earlier in the day, so we took her and had her examined by a vet who knew how to handle my cat. They took some blood and we weren’t able to get any more answers. We made a follow-up appointment for the next day when her regular vet would be in. During dinner, we heard some noises upstairs. I knew she’d gone up there to lay under a small table I have in the hallway, so I dashed up to see her thrashing around like she was stuck, though there was nothing for her to get tangled in. I brought her downstairs.

Her gait was extremely slow, her tailed held low and she stuck to the perimeters of the rooms. As the evening progressed, it seemed increasingly likely that she could not see. She’d walk into walls if her whiskers or ears didn’t touch them first. She did eat and drink and use the litter box, but only after we directed her toward them.

I’d often joked that Callie would end up one of those gnarly 25-30 year old cats before she died. At her last appointment in January, she received a clean bill of health; everything looked great for a nearly 17 year-old cat.

On Monday, the vet confirmed that our suspicion was very likely; she’d had at least one stroke over the weekend. He said that her could refer us to a nearby neurological specialist, but with a 17 year-old cat…

It was a conclusion my wife and I had already discussed. The cat we took to the vet lacked the spunk, vigor, and fight that our Callie was known for. She was blind, in pain, and suffering. We made the difficult decision to euthanize her. I held her when she started to stumble after they gave her the sedative and helped her lie down, where she fell asleep with her head on my arm. Looking back, I can say that, when they euthanized her, she went out as she lived, sleeping on my arm.

RIP my little girl, Callie.
2001 – June 25, 2018

Kitten Callie (technically before I knew her, but not long before)

 

Kitty Boops

 

Callie looking on while I write one of the Scars of the Sundering novels

 

Wassup, you?

 

A pretty girl

 

Her favorite place to sleep

 

Sleeping in our new home

Categories: Zack Jackson | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Back in the Saddle

So, it’s been quiet around here lately and you may be wondering “Where is Zack Jackson 4?”

Well, I’ve been moving. Not far; I still live in the same city. It was a downsizing move. However, now that is essentially finished (still need to finish unpacking) and I can resume work on the final edit of Zack Jackson & the Secret of Venus.

I hope to have all the work completed by the end of the month and have the book in your hands by the Fourth of July.

ZJ Book 4 Cover low res

Once Zack Jackson & The Secret of Venus is wrapped up, I plan to finish my next fantasy novel (I’m already 50,000+ words into it), then start work on Zack Jackson 5.

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Themes in My Writing

I want to expand a bit on my twitter thread from today (the one about my books, not one about whatever else I talked about).

The Foundation of Drak-Anor DuologyWhen I wrote The Foundation of Drak-Anor, I had a story to tell. A story about misfits and “monsters” finding acceptance in a world that just wanted them to die. They themselves “knew” they were monsters and acted accordingly; they thought nothing of lashing out and attacking dwarves for their supplies. It’s not like anyone was going to trade with them anyway, right?

Of course, being constantly under siege by people who scream how you’re evil and unholy and must be cleansed tends to affect one negatively. With patience, understanding, and a willingness to talk, one can move past that and find common ground.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00036]In Scars of the Sundering, they’ve found acceptance (if not tolerance), and now have to learn to live with the responsibility that comes with being part of a civilized society. They also learn that they can affect the world in ways they once thought impossible to them. Plus, they learn that there are always people who wish they’d just go away and will try to erase their history and legacy.

These are themes that developed organically. Although, I did try to show that no matter how different someone may appear to be from another, we all are more alike than different. We all want to live and love, eat, drink and enjoy time with friends. Ultimately, I just wanted to tell a fun story with interesting characters.

Hopefully, I did that.

Zack Jackson page banner flatI approached the Zack Jackson series differently. From the beginning, I knew I wanted a sci-fi version of Harry Potter (though without a Dark Lord, Prophecy, Faux-Latin Magic, and Kitchen-Sink Fantasy). I wanted to tell a story about a kid, going away to school where there’s all these weird and wonderful things and constantly getting over his head, saved only by his association with his friends.

Plus, I wanted to showcase real science where I could. I made a few concessions to fun, took a few liberties with physics so I could have faster-than-light (FTL) travel, and aliens that weren’t so alien we couldn’t relate to them. I wanted to give loving homages to the sci-fi I loved, like Star Trek, Mass Effect, and Star Frontiers, and sci-fact like NASA’s space exploration program and the work of astronomers the world over, as well as introduce subjects like transhumanism. I also wanted to showcase diversity in all of its forms, which I actually had to dial back in the third book after someone observed that I was trying a bit too hard.

Hitchhiker-Symbol-iconZack Jackson needed to be set far enough in the future that we could realistically have answers to certain questions because space is huge. More huge than pop culture sci-fi usually shows. As Douglas Adams wrote in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

Now that I near the completion of the fourth book in the series (and anticipating writing at least 2-3 more), I’m beginning to see parallels in the series to current events and issues. These are things I didn’t consciously put into the book, but they must’ve been on my mind at the time. The kids grow a little older in each book, a little more experienced and (hopefully) wise, so the challenges they face are more difficult and more mature in their nature. Like the Harry Potter series, I wanted the characters to grow with the readers.

Again, ultimately, I wanted to tell a fun story with the Zack Jackson series. I’m really excited to release book 4, Zack Jackson & The Secret of Venus, in just a few months. I’m equally excited to show you where the story goes from there.

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Zack Jackson & the Secret of Venus Cover Art

Once again, Joshua Pinkas has come through with some excellent, nay, AMAZING cover art for the next book in the Zack Jackson series.

We get a great view of Cytherea at the bottom right as well as an awesome… well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out what’s going on.

Zack Jackson & the Secret of Venus will be available on Kindle and in print early Spring 2018.

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The Trusty Steed

This is a reblog of a post; the original post is linked after my comments.

I didn’t use horses in Wings of Twilight for one simple reason: I forgot until I was two-thirds of the way through the first draft. Then, I decided that there was a perfectly reasonable explanation why Strom & company weren’t using them: horses and their upkeep are expensive. Strom was leading his band on a misguided, self-righteous crusade, not exactly the kind of thing that would leave them rolling in dough.

Much to the chagrin of one of my editors, I had the characters acquire mounts in Scars of the Sundering, though. It was like introducing a whole new slew of characters, and since the traveling groups in that series were rather large, that meant a lot of tracking whose steed belonged to whom.

Pancras acquired Stormheart, a blue roan stallion
Gisella rode Moonsilver, a white mare
Delilah acquired Fang, a nailtooth (kind of like a rideable velociraptor)
Kale acquired Blackclaw, a nailtooth
Kali acquired Taavi, a nailtooth
Edric rode Yaffa, a pony
Qaliah acquired Comet, a piebald gelding, named after the Comet the Wonderhorse from the Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.
Lord Fenwick rode Shadowmane, a black stallion
Valora rode Quincy, a dwarven battleboar (so named because I thought it was funny)

In my next World of Calliome novel, horses will once again feature as mounts for the characters. I’m not quite ready to reveal the characters, but we’ll have Pepper (a dapple grey gelding), Socks (a chestnut stallion with white legs), and Silvermane (a silver dapple gelding). For you lovers of all things equestrian out there, I don’t go into as much detail as George R.R. Martin; I’m not really telling a story of a knight and his horse, plus, I write stories that are a little more fast-paced than A Song of Ice & Fire.


 

Richie Billing

If you happen to enjoy this article, why not stay in touch by signing up to my mailing list? Subscribers receive a list of 50 fantasy book reviewers, as well as a copy of This Craft We Call Writing: Volume One, a collection of writing techniques, advice, and guides looking at, amongst others, world-building, writing fight scenes, characterisation, plotting, editing and prose.


There’s always a horse in a fantasy book. So I decided to do a bit of research on the trusty steeds that carry us fearlessly into battle, and this is what I found.

 

Make no assumptions

For some of us, it’s fair to say we don’t see horses very often, driving past one standing in a field at 50mph on the odd occasion. We probably see horses more on TV than we do in reality. The main complaint I came across from readers when it came…

View original post 1,037 more words

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Cyber Monday Sale! (through Friday)

Scars of the Sundering, books 1 and 2 (Malediction and Lament) are only $0.99 for Kindle. Book 3 (Salvation) is FREE!

Scars of the Sundering is an epic fantasy trilogy telling the tale of the minotaur Pancras and his friends, the drak twins Kale and Delilah, as they venture out into a world that, until recently, considered their kind to be mere monsters.

They must deal with more than just the prejudices of the neighboring humans as they stumble into political plots and ancient evils unveil themselves.

 

Categories: Scars of the Sundering | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pancras Fan Art

I just received a lovely piece of fan art. Obviously, it’s Pancras and he looks great. I think he’d be a bit embarrassed and no doubt the drak twins would tease him for weeks.

Pancras by Bernie Todd

Pancras by Josebean Todd

Categories: Calliome, Scars of the Sundering | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gen Con 50 Wrap-Up!

The Best Four Days of Gaming™ have come and gone and Gen Con 50 is behind us. I came away with a pleasing number of sales (which will hopefully generate some new fans for the World of Calliome and Zack Jackson), some new ideas, and a few hopes for future projects/collaborations. I would love to shout from the rooftops about a couple of these potential opportunities, but since nothing is set in stone, it really would serve no purpose save to get my hopes up. I prefer to be calm about such things until there’s something to actually talk about.

The convention itself was the typical mix of awesome and obnoxious. Fortunately, the awesome outweighed the obnoxious. I think I’m going to invest in some cloth banners to hang from the backdrop next year and eschew the pictures in frames. They’re unwieldly, unstable, and difficult to travel with. I’m also happy that only one person made the mistake of thinking MY name is Zack Jackson.

At some point, I suppose I’ll have to start picking and choosing which titles to bring. I’ll definitely have Zack Jackson & the Secret of Venus for next year (I’m hoping to have it published by the end of the year, frankly), and if my schedule holds and no immediate paid work comes up, maybe another title as well.

There is another World of Calliome novel in the works, but as I’m only about 1/4 – 1/3 into the first draft, that’s all I’ll say about it for now. Well, that, and it features a cast of all-new characters.

I can’t really comment on the gaming. As an exhibitor on Author’s Avenue, I only spent about an hour wandering the Dealer Hall, and since most vendors were closed when I did, I didn’t see much. I didn’t sign up for any events; when you work all day in the Dealer Hall, committing yourself to something else when you could be finding dinner and resting for the next day is difficult. It’s tiring, but rewarding.

The next convention at which I’m scheduled to make an appearance is GameHole Con in Madison, WI. I’m mostly scoping that con out this year, so I’m only appearing on one panel and will likely not be there all four days. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing and hope that you keep reading.

Categories: Calliome, conventions, Zack Jackson | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Best of Indy Nomination Time!

Thanks to everyone who came to see me on Author’s Avenue this weekend!

Each year, I participate in a local contest: Best of Indy. You can to vote daily to nominate your favorite Indianapolis business and personalities and I would appreciate your support in the Best Local Author category! So far, I have been the ONLY sci-fi/fantasy author represented on the list of nominees. I’m a firm believer that genre does not determine whether or not something is literature or worth reading.

Nuvo’s Best of Indy Contest nomination phase runs from today, August 16 through September 13, 2017.
People who receive the most nominations will appear on the ballot at the end of September.
Here’s how to find the Best Local Author Category:
  • Click Arts & Entertainment
  • Press “Continue” to proceed to page 2
  • Press “Submit” to get to page 3 where you can type in “Hans Cummings” in the Best Local Author field (as shown in the attached picture).
  • Press “Submit” again and type in the Captcha code.
  • Press “Submit” one final time to record your nomination.
Notes: Nuvo upgraded their system, so you’ll need to create a new login id and confirm your registration once editors@nuvo.net sends you the confirmation email. If you don’t see it, be sure to check your Spam folder. You can opt out of future mailings when you register.
Thank you for your support!
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Disability Awareness at Gen Con (updated for 2017!)

handicap-blue-circle_zk7tL8Id_LIf you were looking for my gaming blog, DoctorStrangeRoll, where this article usually appears, I’m putting it here since that one is updating daily with RPGaDAY 2017, and I don’t want this to get lost in the flood.


Gen Con is nigh! With just over a week to go before the best four days in gaming (as of the time I’m posting this), I’m not going to rehash what so many others have put out there; there are tons of blogs and articles out there with advice regarding large conventions like Gen Con. My advice is going to be different. I am going to rehash what I’ve posted in previous years (they’re my most popular posts!). To most of it, Wheaton’s Law applies. For those of you who are link-averse, Wheaton’s Law is this: Don’t be a dick.
However, the things about which I’m going to speak, are the sorts of things people are not aware they’re being dickish about. They’re usually not being malicious; they just don’t have any personal experience with these sorts of issues, so when they start breaking Wheaton’s Law, they don’t know they’re doing it. My job here is not to castigate, but to educate.

Specifically, I’m talking about dealing with those who have physical challenges at conventions. The disabled, to be blunt. People like my wife. She can walk, but conventions like Gen Con are too big for her. So, she uses a wheelchair to get around. She has a snazzy metallic red electric wheelchair, but in years past, I’ve pushed her in a manual wheelchair. This gives us a unique experience at Gen Con.

Be Aware of People Around You

The average con goer is, shall we say, Plus-sized. OK, that’s fine. I’ve been there; I lost nearly 50 pounds a few years ago. At conventions, people often have large backpacks. Sometimes, everything they brought to the convention is in this backpack. People are not always aware that this backpack adds two to three feet to their girth. They spin around quickly. If you’re in a wheelchair, those backpacks are level with your head. More than once my wife has narrowly avoided being clobbered in the head by an unaware con-goer suddenly spinning around because something caught his or her eye. When I pushed her, I watched for this sort of thing. Now she drives herself, and I worry she’s going to get beat up.

Step to the far sides or into a booth space, if possible, to have conversations with friends or on your phone, or to look at the map, in your backpack, etc.

Moving through large groups of slow moving people is a challenge in a wheelchair. Sometimes people back up unexpectedly. Worse, they often stop unexpectedly. Sometimes it’s because the crowd in front of them has stopped. Sometimes it’s because something caught their eye. Sometimes it’s because someone caught their eye, and they’re stopping to chat. If this happens to you, look ahead a bit and see if there’s a spot in a booth where you can divert to stop. Please, please, please don’t just stop in the middle of the aisle to root through your backpack or catch a Pokémon. You’re not in a high school hallway; stopping in the middle of the aisle is hugely disruptive. Also, if you’re pushing your kids in a stroller, you really need to watch where you’re pushing them. My wife almost got t-boned by a stroller a few years ago because the mother had her head turned one way, watching something, and was pushing and walking in a different direction… in a CROWDED hall way (not even the Dealer Hall). She also almost got run into by a guy walking very fast and not watching the direction he was walking. His friend yelled to get his attention, otherwise he would have tripped over my wife’s (in motion) wheelchair. She had no chance to take evasive action because he approached from an angle that was mostly behind her. Situational Awareness is a thing. You don’t have to be a fighter pilot to practice it. Seriously.

Bathe regularly. Use deodorant.

Shower regularly and use deodorant. This has been covered by almost every blog and podcast I’ve seen on the subject. I bring it up because something most people aren’t aware of: Gamer Funk is worse when your head is at waist level to the average con goer. Think about it: you sit on your butt every day during the con, often for four to six hours at a time. Frequently, walking around the city during the Con can be like walking on the surface of the sun (i.e. it’s HOT). The chairs don’t breathe. The A/Cs in the convention center will have trouble keeping up with a roomful of gamers when it’s hot and humid outside. Except for a very few, select people, most attendees have the crotch region covered completely by a couple of layers of clothes (basically, I’m talking about everyone who can’t get away with wearing something like a swimsuit or lingerie to Gen Con). Sweat happens. Funky things happen in dark, warm, moist areas. This is not shameful, it’s just a fact of bio-chemistry. Cleanliness saves noses.

Give wheelchairs and other mobility devices a wide berth; don’t step over them.

Often, those of us using wheelchairs, canes, and walkers move a little more slowly than others in the Dealer Hall. Sorry, it’s just difficult to drive or push a large mechanical object through a crowd. Sometimes, we have to stop for a moment to wait for an opening to cross an aisle. I know you’re in a hurry. I know there’s a demo you think you’re late for, or a game in another room. But FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY: DO NOT STEP OVER THE LEGS OF THE PERSON IN THE WHEELCHAIR. This happens to my wife at least once a year. Someone will get the bright idea that they can cut a corner if they just step over my wife’s legs. That is 100% NOT OKAY. For one, these people usually misjudge how much space they need and end up kicking my wife’s feet or the wheelchair. She’s not paralyzed, OK? She has feeling in the lower half of her body. In fact, because she has a degenerative spine condition, she feels these jolts acutely. IN HER BACK.

Pain is a funny thing (and I mean funny like a heart attack). In my wife’s case (and I know many people experience this same thing), it’s like gas prices. It’ll spike very quickly, and then take FOREVER to come back down. If you kick her wheels (however accidentally) or kick her legs because you felt stepping over her was quicker than going around, or accidentally knee the back of the chair because you’re standing too close in line, all of those jolts go right into her back. The extremities are ALL connected to the spine in some way. That jolt of pain doesn’t just go away. It takes HOURS. Often, it takes her lying down for hours before it gets back down to a manageable level and it’s not something that can be alleviated by popping a couple of ibuprofen. Chronic pain does not work that way.

More than once, she has missed out on a half-day or a whole day of a con because of this pain. When you are the cause because you carelessly stepped over her wheelchair and kicked her legs, causing a flare up of pain in her back, you have taken a day at Gen Con away from her. Is that worth saving five seconds to you?

Don’t tie up wheelchair accessible ADA bathroom stalls unless you have a Potty Emergency.

A comedian once proclaimed the virtues of the wheelchair accessible ADA rest room stall, saying it was “the Cadillac” [of the stalls]. While it is true these stalls are often very roomy, there is a reason for that. Here’s a hint: the reason is NOT SO YOU CAN USE IT TO CHANGE INTO OR OUT OF YOUR COSTUME. I respect cos-players. What they do is AMAZING. But if you’re tying up the accessible stall chatting on the phone, changing clothes, having a quiet moment, you may be preventing people who need to use it for its intended purposes from using the facilities they require. From what I hear, because I don’t have first-hand experience with the ladies restrooms, for every ten to twenty standard stalls, there are one or two wheelchair accessible ADA stalls and one or two “family” stalls (if you’re lucky). The family stalls are slightly smaller than the wheelchair accessible stalls, but larger than a standard stall so that a parent can stand and assist her toddler. Handicapped attendees don’t expect the wheelchair accessible ADA stalls to only be used by people with disabilities. With some 60,000+ attendees anticipated, it is understood that sometimes there will be a line for the facilities. People expect to have to wait their turn. The main point is to use a non-wheelchair accessible stall if one is available and to be aware that people using wheelchairs and other mobility assistance devices often cannot choose one of the smaller stalls.

Look, I get sometimes you need a quiet moment (Gen Con has, in fact, special rooms for quiet moments; use them, not the restrooms), or have to change clothes, but that stall is that big so that wheelchairs or people with walkers can get into it, and the commode with raised higher than in the non-accessible stalls. My wife told me of an experience a couple of years ago where she was in a line three wheelchairs deep waiting for the wheelchair accessible ADA stall while two young ladies were changing clothes and giggling and were pretty much oblivious to the fact that they were not the center of the universe.  Apparently, of the twenty or so other stalls, only two others were occupied at the time, so it’s not like these young ladies had no choice (and couldn’t wait). One woman had to get out of her wheelchair, crawl along the floor, and into a non-wheelchair accessible stall because she could not wait any longer. My wife confronted them and politely made them aware they were holding up the line and they cried and accused her of being rude.

Another anecdote my wife shared with me involved another con-goer who apologized for using the wheelchair accessible stall when she saw my wife waiting in her wheelchair. The woman explained she had had a hip replacement and couldn’t sit on the lower commodes. The lesson here is that not everyone has a visible disability. Many people with hip replacements risk dislocating the joint if they bend beyond 90°, which includes sitting on a commode shorter than 19″ high.

When people abuse the wheelchair accessible restroom, handicapped con goers risk wetting their pants. That shouldn’t have to be one’s main concern in a public restroom.

It’s a safe bet that most cosplayers are from out of town and have hotels. Perhaps they see the bathroom, the wheelchair accessible stall in particular, as a more convenient place to work on their costume than going back to their hotel. Well, tough. That stall is for people with disabilities to pee and poop. You don’t get to act put out when one of them calls you on it. Besides, have you SEEN what’s on the floor in a public restroom? I certainly wouldn’t want to get that on my costume.

Watch for Canes

They’re easy to miss; and it’s hard to tell if someone’s cane is part of a costume they’re wearing or an actual mobility-assistance device (it could be both; mobility-impaired people cos-play, too!). Be aware of where your feet are as you’re walking around the crowded dealer hall. It’s not fun to rely on a cane for stability only to have someone kick it out from under you. White Canes or white-tipped canes extended in front of the people using them signify they are low-vision or blind. Do not step in front of them or over them.

NX_senior_man_wheelchairDon’t be a Dick

This last thing actually is castigation because this happens every Gen Con and it’s not a matter of people being unaware; it’s a matter of people being rude jerks. If there’s a person with a wheelchair or other mobility device waiting for an elevator and they were there waiting when you and your group of friends arrived, WAIT FOR THE NEXT ELEVATOR IF YOU ALL WON’T FIT. More than once we have had our elevator poached by a group of rude assholes who rush to get into the elevator before we can. That’s being a dick. That’s being rude. You are bad people and should feel bad. When that happens, we hope the elevator breaks down with you in it. Don’t make me be a bad person for wishing bad things upon you.

Let’s work together to make sure the Best Four Days of Gaming are the best days for ALL attendees!

Categories: conventions | Tags: , , , | 15 Comments

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