What is The Dark Lord?

DarkLord FINAL cover

Fear The Dark Lord!

In less than a month, the ebook of The Dark Lord will be available (November 1st to be exact!) We are very excited, but we’ve also realized that other than the cover reveal, we haven’t posted much about it. Time to start fixing that…

The Dark Lord is the first of a new series where we have fun with epic fantasy, much in the way The Charming Tales twist fairy tales in amusing ways. It’s part Lord of the Rings, part Dungeons & Dragons, a touch of World of Warcraft, a hint of Magic: The Gathering, and a wee pinch of Amber, just for good measure. Oh, and college, because what better place for fantasy than a university?

Our protagonist, Avery, is a grad student at the mystical Mysterium University (worthy of its own blog post) attempting to complete his dissertation. He wants to take the sub-world of Trelari, a dimension of lesser reality and ‘innoculate’ it from the forces of evil. In order to do so, he uses himself as a vaccine. He becomes The Dark Lord, and unites all the powers of darkness. This inspires the forces of good to unite to oppose him and allows the Heroes of the Age to assemble and ‘defeat’ him. Good triumphs over evil and all is right with the world. Avery returns home and looks forward to his graduate degree. Life is good.

Until Avery succumbs to temptation and allows an undergrad to steal Trelari’s Key to Reality. When she enters the sub-world, Avery has to follow. His only true ally is his roommate Eldrin, and without the Key to Reality, he has to unite with the heroes who opposed him when he was The Dark Lord.

It’s a more serious novel than The Charming Tales, although it’s filled with some amusing characters including a Semi-Lich and the Master of Dungeons. There are also possibly gelatinous polygons. If you ever played fantasy roleplaying games or read epic fantasy, we hope that you’ll give the novel a try. You will laugh and probably reminisce quite a bit as you catch our references.



Once Upon a Time with… Liana Brooks!

decoherence-1Hi everyone! Today we have a special guest, Liana Brooks, author of the Time & Shadows trilogy. She’s one of our fellow Harper Voyager Impulse authors, and her third book, DECOHERENCE, was released today (September 13, 2016) – please note the amazing cover to the left. Liana is a California native living in Alaska, and we hear she has a really big dog.

So, let’s get started. What’s your “Once Upon a Time”? Tell us about your beginning as an author. Where did you live and what inspired you to write?

Once upon a time, there was a strange, fair-haired child living just north of the Mexican border. Her family spoke Spanish, and they loved to read. They read the strange little girl books by JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. They filled her head with dragons and heroines.

Day by day, the strange little girl grew darker, and taller, and stranger. Until at last she was a dark-haired teenager living high in the Rocky Mountains, wearing flannel and a chain, and filling notebooks with stories about fiery queens who tamed dragons and spaceships. Continue reading

Copy Edits for The Dark Lord

The time has come. We’ve received the copy edits for The Dark Lord back from Harper and are doing the final review of the text before everything is set in stone for the November 1st ebook release.

Here’s how the process works. First, we send in the initial draft to our editor. She does her magic to it, and sends it back with insights, feedback and suggested changes. We take some time to review and meet her requests and return it to her. She looks over everything again and decides whether or not to send it out for copy editing. The copy editor fixes our grammar and points out any issues that we and our editor missed. We have a final opportunity to look everything over, make any final minor tweaks, and then we are done.

The last edit isn’t so bad, except that we do it in about a week and our novel is over 100,000 words long. We know what we will be doing this weekend.

More details to come, but they may come after copy edits are turned in next week. Until then, all the best!

The Dark Lord Cover is Here!

It feels like we’ve been writing and rewriting The Dark Lord forever, but finally, November 1st, ebook release day, is just around the corner. Preorders are available. This is a new series for us, but don’t worry, Charming fans, we’re still committed to you. The Dark Lord combines our love of roleplaying games and epic fantasy with grad school and a bit of humor. It’s a bit well, darker than Charming…

So here we go… Continue reading

The Dark Lord Comes! Cover Reveal Tomorrow.

Hi everyone,

Tomorrow, we will reveal the cover for The Dark Lord, Jack Heckel’s next book. It’s the start of a new series and our version of a love letter to roleplaying and epic fantasy.

The Dark Lord comes…and his name is Avery?

Stay tuned. 🙂

Twice the Author Jack Heckel Used To Be

Most people know that Jack Heckel is not one person, but actually the name that John Peck and Harry Heckel use for their writing team. If you didn’t know that, you know now. 🙂

Jack Heckel was a name proposed to us by Harper Voyager. For whatever reason, books written by co-authors don’t sell as well as books by a single author. So at our publisher’s urging, instead of John Peck and Harry Heckel (or J.H. Heckelpeck or Peck and Heckel), we became Jack Heckel. We still aren’t sure why they didn’t like our choice of J.K. Rowling as a name…

Now, both of us agree that we are Jack Heckel. We don’t divide up our writing and between all the edits we do, we both take full blame and responsibility for anything we write together, even if John did come up with that idea or Harry switched things around. We are both the author of The Charming Tales.

Where things get tricky are places like this blog and convention appearances. If Harry Heckel attends a convention as himself, no one knows that he’s Jack Heckel. Same for John. If Harry attends as Jack Heckel, then as happened at RavenCon this year, someone may be disappointed that they aren’t getting to talk to the real author. Of course, by that logic, John isn’t the real author either. Neither of us is (or are we?). It is a little strange when you are introduced to half an author. It’s also weird if you say, “Would you like to buy my book?” and someone says “That’s half of your book.” It’s even weirder when you are with other authors and a fellow author says “Hi, I’m an author, and sitting next to me is an author, and beside him is half an author.” Once we have two books out, do we stop being half an author each or are we perpetually consigned to half authordom?

And, as a reader, you don’t know whether John or Harry is writing this blog unless we tell you (it’s currently Harry at the keyboard).

Even stranger, we originally created a tongue-in-cheek biography for Jack Heckel. We like the thought of his Vermont lighthouse, but Harry lives in Virginia and John lives in California, and it’s a bit awkward when someone asks either of us what it’s like to have Bernie Sanders as our Senator or why we don’t attend a local book event in Vermont. But, more than that, we both want to connect with our readers. We’d like you to get to know us.

To that end, we are going to share a little more on this blog and identify each other more specifically going forward. I (still Harry) may even interview John (and let him return the favor). We’d like to share a bit about our hobbies and travels, and we hope that you comment. Please let us know what you think.

Also, just to catch everyone up, we’ve both spent most of this year working on our next book, The Dark Lord, a standalone novel that we intend to be book 1 of a new series. It’s about a grad student at a magical university who is trying to save the subworld of Trelari by rallying the forces of Good. His method of doing this: Becoming the Dark Lord. After his experiment ends, things take an unexpected turn and he discovers that he must work with the heroes of Trelari and jump through the hoops of epic fantasy tropes. Whether he can survive the Master of Dungeons, the Dread Semi-Lich, the Dark Queen herself and still complete his dissertation is another matter. And will his roommate Eldrin ever speak to him again? It should be big fun for the November 1st release.



A Post-Facto PHXCC Running Diary

In a long tradition…that I am starting now, I’ve decided to do a post-facto running diary of Jack’s crazy couple of days at the Phoenix Comic-Con. Would it have been better to have done a diary that was actually running while I was AT the convention? Of course. Would it have been possible? I will let you judge for yourself as I lay out my crazy schedule.

But, before I begin that I want to start by saying that the best part of the con, apart from meeting people and spreading the word of the Charming Tales, was in interacting with the other wonderful authors at the various panels and signing events. I apologize in advance if I forget to mention anyone that I should have mentioned.

With that it is on to…



Time: 3PM (Sigh)

Opening day of the con I was scheduled to do a panel at 3PM called “Dragons and Rare Creatures”, which promised to allow us panelists to, “wax poetically about the winged creatures and the mythological beasts which influence and populate fantasy fiction today.” This would have been AWESOME, because The Charming Tales feature not one but two dragons quite prominently in their stories. (I mean check out these covers!)

Fairytale Endingpitchfork

Also, it would have allowed little old Jack to sit alongside some AMAZING authors, including Alyssa Wong (or as she should be called: Nebula Award Winning Alyssa Wong), Aprilynne Pike (Yes, that one that wrote the kick-ass fairy series Wings, but more on her later), Christina Henry (whose Alice books I spent the whole con trying to buy, but couldn’t because they kept selling out!), Gini Koch (whose Alien series looks amazing), and…drumroll please…Todd Lockwood! Yes, that Todd Lockwood, the one that did like ALL the art for DnD 3rd Edition.


And, where was I at 3PM?  Writing patents. Needless to say, the con did not start out with a bang for old Jack. (I would sad emoticon here if I thought it really expressed my true angst.)


Time: 8AM (Badges? We don’t need no… oh, yes that would be helpful.)

And the comeback began EARLY, because I was a little paranoid about getting my badge and finding my actual first panel–now having blown the panel of destiny from Day 0. Luckily, with a massive assist from Caroline Perny at Harper (publicist supreme)! In fact, I want to take this moment to thank everyone at Harper Voyager for arranging the con so wonderfully. This was a fantastic opportunity to get the word out on The Charming Tales and it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Harper team.

Time: 10AM (The Exhibition Hall)

The great news about waking up so early was that Jack and Jack’s sidekick throughout the con (Isaac) were able to be at the doors of the main exhibition hall when they opened.  What a scene!

Exhibit Hall

Time: Noon (Romancing the Paranormal)

Time flew in the Exhibition hall and the next thing I knew I was sitting down for my first panel. Thankfully I had a second opportunity to meet Aprilynne. She had some very insightful comments on paranormal romance, which makes sense given her collection of work (I did mention she is the author of the popular Wings novels didn’t I?). She also revealed the cover for her next book Glitter which comes out in October and looks incredible!


Sitting next to me at the panel was Jamie Wyman who is my new hero.  In addition to some amazing work with her urban fantasy series that follows technomancer Catherine Sharp (I know super cool name) as she dices with the gods in Las Vegas, Jamie also writes a series of mysteries about a Depression Era Sherlock Holmes  who works in a traveling circus. That is range!

Also at the table was Leanna Renne Hieber, who is another of my new heroes, not least of which because she writes some wonderful ghostly romance in the Magic Most Foul novels, but also because she came to the con dressed like this:


…and I came to know that this was merely “slightly fancier” than what she might wear any other day of the week. Perhaps this doesn’t seem so extraordinary, but did I mention the con was in Phoenix… in June… and it was 115 degrees outside!

And last, but certainly not least, was Kevin Hearne, he of the Iron Druid  series, and epic beard!

In all we had a great discussion about what makes a romance a paranormal romance: basically Romance (with a capital “R” as Aprilynne insisted, which means happy endings [clearing throat] read the Charming Tales) with something beyond the physical world we know, like fairies, or ghosts, or vampires, or gods. And also what is NOT a romance: a book where the love interests (one or both) die. (Sorry Romeo and Juliet you all must stay firmly rooted in the realm of tragedy.)

Time: 1:30PM and again at 4:30PM (My First and Second Signing Panels)

After the panel many of us went down for a couple of signing sessions, which were great because I got to sit next to Christina Henry (see my comments from Day 0) and fall absolutely in love with her two Alice Books. I mean look at these beautiful books and tell me you aren’t also in love with them.


Oh, also at the signings was Patrick Rothfussyes, that Patrick Rothfuss. He was great, his children were adorable, and it was fantastic to see the enthusiasm of the crowd for his works. It is always a good thing to have something to aspire to.

Time: 7PM (Drinks with Harper)

After the con, Caro (Caroline Perny, remember the awesome publicist from before) took the Harper authors out for a drink. I got to meet so many of my favorite HarperVoyager authors I’d previously only known through Facebook. (More on all of them when we continue with Day 2 of the con though.) This evening was really Caro’s triumph. Again, what a great opportunity and all thanks go to Harper and its generosity throughout the convention.


Time: 10:30AM (Charming Takes the Stage)

And here we all were: Becky Chambers, Beth Cato, your own Jack, Lexi Dunne, Patrick Hemstreet and Sarah Remy in a knock-down battle for supremacy of the stage. The panel was billed as a chance for the audience to see each of our main character’s battle to see who would win in a fight.  Here is the character sheet I made up for Prince Charming:Bookish Battle Royale Character Sheet (1)As you can image, the entire thing was more than a little tongue-in-cheek, although Charming did win his battle against none other than Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim, a hitman from hell! How did Charming win? It was all in the eyebrows my friend. You can never underestimate the power of a well-arched eyebrow in facing all the demons of hell!

It was actually a wonderful event that allowed all of us a chance to tell the audience a little bit about our novels and characters.  I’ve put up images and links to the latest works from the authors below. Please check them out:

08eea4_a3ba154738d049158cad913e2c8a2d04BreathofEarth_1000x664SupervillainsAnn 1downloadtest21

But, beyond talking about our own books, we each also got a chance to talk about one of our Harper colleague’s books. Your friend, Jack, won that contest hands-down, because I got to talk about Bishop O’Connell’s American Faerie Tale series. There is nothing easier than talking about books you love so I definitely waxed on a bit about Bishop’s books and particularly Wraith, the main protagonist of his novel The Forgotten who is literally a math wizard. If that idea intrigues you even a little you need to read these books.


Time: 11:30AM-3PM (Walking the Con)

I had a nice long break after the session to unwind, which isn’t easy to do at a convention as big and wild as the Phoenix ComicCon. No matter where you look there is something you want to do. I checked out a couple of fantastic panels.

In “Fae vs. Foe” I got to hear about where faeries came from? What was their original intent? What have they become? And, why now they are so revered? This is obviously a topic old Jack loves to hear about and discuss. Later I wandered into a fascinating presentation about the evolution of Disney princesses over the years, another topic Jack’s written about now and then.

Time: 3PM (Signing and Chatting)

One of the best things about going to cons is meeting people that have just discovered your works.  I am happy to say at the next signing several people came up interested to hear about The Charming Tales and Prince Charming himself. In between selling people on the wonder of fairytales and fairytale humor I was able to chat with a couple more authors. Being the West Coast appendage of Jack I wanted to particularly mention Greg Van EekhoutBased mostly on his description of the premise: a fantasy exploration of magic and heists on the mean streets of LA, I had to get the first volume of his trilogy, California BonesWow! It lives up to its billing. What a fantastic world he’s created. If you like noir and you like fantasy, and you can’t figure out which you should read, then this is the book for you. Highly Recommended!


Time: 1:30PM (World Builders Gonna Build)

The last day of the con found me on a panel discussing how authors go about world building in epic fantasy. Greg Van Eekout, Michael MartinezSarah Remy and I spent a very fast hour discussing our very different views on how you go about building coherent (or as is often the case when dealing with egotistical fairytale characters, incoherent) worlds. Sarah and I were on the “pantsing” it side, while Michael and Greg were on the “plan it out” side, which only goes to show that, just like there is more than one way to skin a cat, there is also more than one way to write epic fantasy.

Time: 4:15PM (Gotta Go!)

As the plane lifted off from “Skyharbor” airport (a cool name for an airport, even if the reality doesn’t quite live up to it) I was exhausted, but energized to get back to talking about The Charming Tales and writing Jack’s next novel. Jack’s two alter egos will be going out into the world this summer to bring Prince Charming and Elle and Will and Liz to as wide an audience as we can. Check out jackheckel.com for upcoming events and, of course, future releases!