This is the story of Jax, a mechanical man who breaks free of his masters’ commands and the transcontinental war he finds himself at the center of. On one side is the machine-making Dutch, on another is the alchemical French, and on the third are the rebels, determined to make a place for free mechanicals in the New World. If you like steampunk or historical fantasy, look no further.
Sunset Boulevard is a masterpiece, and the kind of movie Hollywood just can’t make anymore. Norma Desmond is a legendary silent movie actress the world forgot two decades earlier, and she wants to make a comeback in the talkies. Some films alternate between comedy and tragedy, but this film does both the entire way through. It’s brilliant. See it now.
Some artists have such courage to follow their muse that it puts the rest of us to shame. Henry Darger was one such artist, working entirely in obscurity to produce his illustrated 15,000 page epic, In the Realms of the Unreal. This documentary takes you deep into Henry’s bizarre and wonderful world. A must-watch for anyone who wants to see behind the curtain of creativity.
Harry Dresden is a wizard detective in modern day Chicago with a dark past and a good heart. From the Red Court of the vampires to the Winter Court of the fey, including every evil spirit and fallen angel between, Harry has his work cut out for him. The 23-book epic starts here, with Storm Front. Essential reading for every fan of urban fantasy.
The best books help us to see the world in a new way, and by this criteria, Flatland is outstanding. In Abbott’s exploration of what life would be like in zero-, one-, and two-dimensional space, he not only transforms our understanding of our own three-dimensional space, but opens our eyes to the possibilities that await us in the fourth-, fifth-, and Nth dimension. The story of the Square might be a bit dry, but the ideas are very juicy indeed.
Pearl Jam released a number of fantastic albums, but none had the razor sharp focus of Vitalogy. The band used the album to explore how to live rightly at a time when they were surrounded on all sides by people who wanted either to celebrate them or to exploit them. Deep, complex, and at times sublime.
The Iron Druid series is like popcorn for the imagination. It’s tasty, light, and it leaves you wanting more. I hope Kevin Hearne doesn’t kill me for this, but it’s like Disney did Urban Fantasy, drawing on classic myth to build a resonant story that leaves you in a happier place than you started. Hounded is the first in the series, and it just gets better after that.
In an alternate world where Lincoln was shot too soon and slavery still exists, an escaped slave named Victor has been enlisted by the U.S. Marshals Service to return other escapees to their owners. With every chapter, Ben Winters manages to expand his bone-chilling and all-too-realistic distopia, even as he unveils a conspiracy among the darkest I’ve ever read. Perhaps the best praise I can offer for the book is that it kept me crawling in my skin from start to end.
The key to crafting smart, deep stories that keep the reader guessing is working from a strong outline. Take Off Your Pants! teaches you everything you need to know to take the seed of an idea, grow it into a healthy outline, then use that outline to produce a book. If a writer reads one book on outlining, it should be this one.