Sunday, June 29, 2014


ThrottleThrottle by Joe Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A trucker chases a biker gang across the Nevada desert. Carnage ensues.

Stephen King and Joe Hill team up for this tale which originally appeared in a Richard Matheson tribute anthology. Fittingly enough, it prominently features a father and son in a biker gang called The Tribe.

Fresh from a meth deal gone wrong, The Tribe speeds across the desert, looking for a way to get back its $60,000. For some reason, a trucker wants them dead.

That's pretty much all I can tell without just spoiling the entire story. There's a lot of blood and gore and a surprising amount of character moments between Vince and Race. I wonder if the conflict between them was in any way inspired by the collaboration of the Kings on this story.

It's a fun short story and a great read when you're looking for anything to do besides yardwork out in the heat of the Missouri summer. Four out of five stars.

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The Lies of Locke Lamora

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard, #1)The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Locke Lamora and his gang, the Gentlemen Bastards, have been fleecing the nobility of Camorr for several years. While engaged in their latest scam, Locke gets betrothed to the daughter of the Capa, the crimelord of the city, and the Gray King starts picking off the Capa's subbordinates. Can The Gentelmen Bastards finish their con, free Locke from marrying the Capa's daughter and avoid the Gray King's attention?

Yeah, that summary's as misleading as a transvestite hooker but this isn't the kind of book you want spoiled for you going in.

The Lies of Locke Lamora is a serpentine tale, both in plot twists and in the way it is told, alternating in flashbacks and the present day. I see it compared to Ocean's Eleven and the Godfather in a fantasy setting. I can see the comparison to The Godfather with the Capa's troubles but it reminds me of The Sting way more than it does Ocean's Eleven.

The Lies of Locke Lamora takes place in a fantasy setting that resembles Italy of the 15th or 16th century. Locke and his compatriots, Jean Tannen, Bug, Caldo, and Galo, are all orphan thieves raised in the temple of the god of thieves. Gone are the usual fantasy tropes of prophecies and quests. This reads more like a crime book. Can the Gentelmen Bastards pull off one last big score?

The way the separate plotlines of the scam, the Capa, and the Gray King converge was very well done. When I started reading the story, I had no idea of the carnage that await me once I passed the 60% mark. When you start reading a fantasy series, you expect certain things to happen and not happen in the first book. Lynch certainly threw me for a loop.

I liked the characters of Locke and Jean quite a bit. The Gray King, however, was a bit of a villain cliche, with his explaining of the plan and motives and all. I thought the Bondsmage was a much more chilling and believable villain. Locke took a bigger shit kicking than any series lead in recent memory, both physically and emotionally, and was a much more relateable series lead than most fantasy characters.

However, it wasn't all pork chops and apple sauce. For what it was, I thought the book was really long winded. While some of the flashbacks did a lot to add background to the characters, others felt like padding and could have been summed up in a sentence or two without losing much. The Gray King came off like a scene chewing mustache twirler near the end. Why didn't he just tie Locke's girlfriend to the railroad tracks while he was at it?

All things considered, I thought The Lies of Locke Lamora was pretty damn great. If you're into crime books and want to give fantasy a shot, this is the perfect book for you. Four out of five stars.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Tentacle Monster Finds a Mate

Tentacle Monster Finds a MateTentacle Monster Finds a Mate by Alessa Montague
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After watching her in the shower for months, the monster living in her drain musters the courage to express its love to Ada in a physical way.

Is that a polite summary of a story that's essentially one long tentacle rape scene? Although, if I get my monster porn terminology correct, it's actually dubcon, or dubious consent. That being said, I actually enjoyed it. Not in a "hey baby, let's push our twin beds together" sort of way, but more in the way I enjoy B-movie shlock.

It's hard to find a story overly stimulating when a woman has one (or more) tentacles penetrating every orifice simultaneously while others are fiddling with her naughty bits, I got the idea that Alessa Montague probably writes some good straight up smut in her other books. The writing was surprisingly good and probably would have been erotic if it didn't prominently feature an octopoid horror gets it's groove on.

Three stars. And it's free on the Kindle.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Full Moon over Cedar Hill

Full Moon Over Cedar HillFull Moon Over Cedar Hill by Edward Lorn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Immobile after a massive stroke, nursing home resident Peter Hoskins is waiting to die when the nursing home becomes the scene of an unholy massacre...

Nana Lorn's favorite grandson does it again. This short story packs a lot of emotion into its pages, conveying the feeling of helplessness a paralyzed stroke victim must feel and the feeling of abandonment common to people living in nursing homes.

Since Full Moon is in the title, you can probably guess what's attacking the nursing home. I love how Lorn shifts between moments from Pete's past to the utter terror of being trapped in a body that won't respond to your commands when supernatural beasties are lurking just down the hall.

The ending was unexpected and great. If my family shoved me in a nursing home, I'd do the same thing.

Good stories featuring supernatural menaces of this type are hard to come by and Lorn knocked it out of the park. Five out of five stars.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

The Whitefire Crossing

The Whitefire Crossing (Shattered Sigil, #1)The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer

A smuggler named Dev is hired to escort a young man from Ninavel to Alathia, taking him through the treacherous Whitefire Mountains. But when the young man turns out to be an apprentice Blood Mage with an angry master on his backtrail, Dev gets a lot more than he bargained for...

I had this on my radar for about a year. When the ebook went on sale for $1.99, I knew the time was right.

The Whitefire Crossing is a refreshing change of pace from most fantasy novels on the racks. Gone is the pseudo-medieval Europe setting and generic quest story. The setting of The Whitefire Crossing reminds me much more of the American West. Ninavel is an analog to Las Vegas, with it's dependence on Mages for water and its lawlessness. The Whitefire mountains are a stand-in for the Rockies and the protected border of Alathia could easy represent the US-Mexican border.

Dev, smuggler with a heart of gold, reminds me of a mountain-climbing Han Solo, in it for the money but also having a kind streak. Kyran, apprentice Blood Mage, is a pretty believable pissed off young man wanting to escape his master's hold on him.

The magic system was pretty interesting. I like the idea of kids born with magical talents, The Taint, and losing them once they hit puberty. Dev's origins did a lot to explain why he was who he was. Ruslan was a pretty vile villain and Blood Mage reminds me of the dark side of the Force quite a bit.

The Whitefire Mountains setting did a lot to separate this one from the rest of the fantasy herd. I saw on Courtney Schafer's bio that she's into mountain climbing and her love of it shows through in the descriptions of mountain terrain, flora and fauna.

I liked the book quite a bit but it wasn't without its flaws. For one thing, the story took a nosedive for me at the 60% mark, once they left the Whitefire Mountains behind. A new threat was introduced and the story lost some of its luster. That's about my only complaint, though.

The Whitefire Crossing is the first book in a series but it stands pretty well on its own and was well worth the $1.99 price tag I paid for it. Four out of five stars.

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Beautiful Madness

A Beautiful MadnessA Beautiful Madness by Lee Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When a mystery man dumps a mutilated and near-dead senator's son on the lawn of a former governor, the former governor's life, and that of his children, spins out of control. Who is the mystery man and why did he leave the dying man on the governor's lawn? And is it connected to the governor's sons? That's what detective Jim Thompson means to find out...

I got this from DarkFuse via Netgalley.

When I saw the detective's name was Jim Thompson, my first thought was "Yeah, they're all fucked."

A Beautiful Madness is told from the point of view of Sammy, the ex-governor's oldest son, who happens to be a drug dealer. His sister, Delilah, is a manipulating gold digger. It seems that Andy is the only one of the Wood children who is worth a shit.

Sammy tries to keep his drug operation running while trying to catch The Wolverine, the mystery man who dumped the senator's boy on his father's lawn. Complicating things are his sister Delilah having a past relationship with the boy and Detective Jim Thompson trying to solve case himself.

A Beautiful Madness is full of twists and turns. There is a fair amount of blood, violence, and death. The characters were surprisingly three dimensional. The Wolverine was far from the one-dimensional scene chewing villain he easily could have been and even had a touch of sadness and pity in his backstory. Sammy is a drug dealing shit but still craves his father's approval and the love of his siblings. Delilah has a slight kind streak despite being a shitbag.

Once The Wolverine's story unravelled, the book become scientifically impossible to put aside. I loved the way everything ended for Thompson, Sammy, Delilah, even the Wolverine.

Darkfuse continues to be one of my favorite publishers and I'll be on the lookout for more Lee Thompson. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, June 13, 2014

The Sleeping Dead

The Sleeping DeadThe Sleeping Dead by Richard Farren Barber

All Jackson Smith wants to do is go to a job interview. When a suicide disrupts traffic, Jack hoofs it and finds that's just the tip of the iceberg. Why are people all over the city killing themselves? And can Jack keep himself from being next?

I got this from DarkFuse via Netgalley.

"The suicide plague hits" would be a good way to sum up this novella. People all over town are gripped by suicidal thoughts and are offing themselves in various horrible ways. Jackson's struggle to find his girlfriend and not become one of the massed victims is palpable and very well done. The Sleeping Dead of the title are even creepier than the actual suicides.

The way Richard Farren Barber depicts the suicidal thoughts invading Jack's mind was chilling and all too believable. I liked the way Jackson and Susan banded together without falling repeatedly on one another's genitals.

My only real gripe with the book was with the ending but that was a matter of personal taste. The DarkFuse Novella series continues to impress. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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BlackoutBlackout by Tim Curran

Jon wakes up after having a few too many at a block party to find his wife gone and his neighborhood mostly deserted and in the grips of a blackout. Jon soon finds himself fighting for his life with a small group of survivors, trying to evade the sinister tentacles ensnaring people and snatching them away into the maw of some unseen predator in the sky...

I got this from DarkFuse via Netgalley. And it was really damn good.

Blackout's premise is simple enough. Something knocks out the power and starts knocking off the humans. As Jon and the other survivors fight for their lives, the details start trickling out and the depth of the shit Jon's town is in proves to be much deeper than originally anticipated.

Tim Curran does a fantastic job showing how quickly things go to hell in a hand basket during a crisis situation. Of course, most of us would behave the same way as Jon and the other survivors once an alien horror from beyond starts harvesting humanity like a bunch of blueberries.

I think the frantic pace coupled with the slow reveal of what was attacking the town is what made the book a home run for me. Since the story was told in the first person, I had an idea of what the ending would be but Curran surpassed my expectations.

The DarkFuse Novella series continues rolling on with the momentum of an asteroid strike. Five out of five squamous stars.

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Patriarch Run

Patriarch RunPatriarch Run by Benjamin Dancer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Billy Erikson's life is going pretty well until an amnesiac stranger wanders into his life. This stranger happens to be his father, Jack, who has been missing for the past ten years. Jack is a former secret agent and the only man on earth who knows the whereabouts of a device capable of ruining the United State's electrical infrastructure. Now if he could just remember where he hid it before one of the factions gunning for him figures out where he is...

I almost didn't agree to read Patriarch Run but Benjamin Dancer caught me in a moment of weakness between books. On the surface, it looked like a Bourne Identity knockoff. I'm pleased to say it was a whole lot more than that.

While Patriarch Run is both a thriller and a coming of age tale, it's also a frightening look at what might happen if the technological singularity happens and artificial intelligence not necessary friendly to human life is born.

I have to admit, I felt like I was out in the weeds for the first half of the book, trying to piece together what happened as Jack and Billy did. Once I was able to get an angle on what the hell was actually going on, I really enjoyed it. It was almost exhausting to read it was so action packed. However, I was pleased that Dancer avoided a few things that normally bug me about books of this type. It wasn't overly political, Jack and Rachel didn't get their genitals entangled after being reunited, and there were no three page chapters unlike a lot of thrillers.

Dancer obviously put a lot of thought into what would happen if something could disrupt the United State's electrical grid and the ramifications are pretty horrifying. I know how bored I get when the power goes out but I never really thought about what would happen if the lights were out for a couple months, like disruption of food distribution and things of that nature.

If I had to gripe about something, I'd say that maybe too much time was spent on the horrors of life without electricity and maybe it took a little too long for the backstory to unfold. Really, though, it's as good as any political/spy thriller put out by the Big 6 (or is it the Big 5 now?) these days.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Give the Dancer a chance and he won't let you down!

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014


SheepsquatchSheepsquatch by I. Ronik
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A girl is missing and Becky and her boyfriend Bobby Joe go looking for her. Was she killed by the mysterious Sheepsquatch or did something else befall her?

I got this from Netgalley.

The entry on Netgalley said this was a horror romance parody. There wasn't much in the way of humor, which seems like a necessary element in a parody. There was some romance but very little in the way of horror.

The Sheepsquatch had some potential and was the most interesting part of the story. The romance angle felted bolted on and on top of that, the Sheepsquatch didn't even have sex with anything and got very little action at all apart form some boob grabbage. I guess it did mock Twilight and similar books, although not in a way I found humorous.

The writing was adequate and parts of the story had a B-movie cheezy quality that I enjoyed. I guess the bottom line is I'm not really sure what this was trying to be. Two out of five stars.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Elderman Speaks: An Interview with Zachary Jernigan

Today's guest is Zachary Jernigan, author of No Return.

How did you hook up with Nightshade for No Return?
I owe it all to the awesome JM McDermott, a fellow graduate of the Stonecoast Popular Fiction MFA program. Back in early 2012, he knew that I'd submitted to several publishers and agents with some interest but ultimately no offers, and thus recommended me to the supremely talented Ross Lockhart (then an editor with Night Shade). Ross got back to me in short order with an offer.

Of course, whenever Night Shade is brought up, one must address the elephant in the room: their business issues and near collapse. Night Shade had been in economic trouble for a while when I signed my contract with them. I was aware of it, though it was hard to judge how bad the situation may or may not have been.

In other words, I knew signing with them was a risk, but you have to understand that I loved their books. When word struck early last year that they were spiraling the drain and then, only a month after No Return came out, looking at either bankruptcy or sale to a larger publisher, I kind of freaked out regardless of my enthusiasm for the content they put out. Here was my dream, happening, and then taking a dive into the completely unknown.

Fortunately, the sale did go through and things have been fairly smooth since then. Night Shade exists in another form, is taking submissions, and even redesigned No Return for paperback release on July 1st.

What would you say the big inspirations behind No Return are?
Tough question. I suppose I can narrow it down to three things (but ask me later, and it might be three entirely different things):

1. Religion, specifically Mormonism, as I was raised in the church and thereafter left it with a lot of very mixed feelings. The subject of bodily perfection and immortality, specifically, are still things I think about far too much in a "I wish that were true" kind of way. As a result of thinking so much about the rather weird (to me) theology of Mormonism, I end up writing a lot about gods and other immortals, peculiar worlds with even more peculiar magic/tech, and moral quandaries.

2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, which I've dealt with since the age of 11. It may seem like an odd thing to use as an influence, but my illness has moved me in the direction of writing about character -- as in what makes a good person a good person. In No Return, Vedas Tezul struggles to define himself as a worthy individual, to the point where his mistakes haunt him. I identify with this struggle, as my OCD has largely been an obsession with being a good person, of wanting to feel justified in liking myself despite mistakes I've made in life (the kind of mistakes anyone would make, honestly). I think this issue is throughout not only No Return, but everything I write.

3. Comic books, which, oddly, I don't read anymore. The visual style of superhero comics, in particular, had a huge impact in the way I visualize science fiction and fantasy characters. It may sound trite, but I like to have characters that are visually interesting/cool in my stories. When people notice that intersection -- as you did, Dan (and not only the visuals!) -- it makes my day.

Adrash had the taste of Roger Zelazny and Jack Kirby on him. Were they inspirations?
Roger Zelazny, without a doubt. I left him off the list of inspirations above because I saw this question, but he is certainly in the top three. I borrowed (okay, stole) a crapload of stuff from Lord of Light and Creatures of Light and Darkness. What can I say? I'm crazy about larger-than-life characters with personality disorders!

Jack Kirby? Again, definitely, but on a less conscious level. Kirby had a way of conveying that same larger-than-life sense as Zelazny did, but on a more iconic level. His work is tattooed on my brain, but it's less of a planned inspiration or theme.

How many books are planned in this series?
Just one more. That's all I'd ever planned on. Most of the reason for this is simple: I hate unfinished things. A second book is about all I could have up in the air and still keep my sanity. I won't rule out the possibility of returning to Jeroun later, however.

Would you say more fantasy writers should dare to step outside the Tolkien-by-Dungeons-and-Dragons box?
Of course! It's getting just a tad old now, isn't it? I mean, fine; I understand people are, on average, more sentimental than I am about those worlds and tropes and themes, but come on -- at a certain point, don't you want something new? To be fair, there are an awful lot of fantasies that aren't in that vein. There are more and more of them each year. But at the same time, we still see so many of the same stock characters and situations, only jazzed up a tiny bit with cosmetic changes. I'd like to see people reaching out beyond this often rather simplistic quest story line (says the guy who wrote about people traveling across a continent on foot to attend a fighting tournament).

I don't want to step on any toes, of course. There are obviously so, so, so many people for whom those familiar locales are a comfort. They love to go to these places again and again. For them, I assume, each iteration is distinct and awesome. For me, though, I get bored. I want to read fantasy that achieves a singular effect. Adding in familiar elements is one thing -- why eschew them altogether? (and could that even be done?) -- but simply playing in an old sandbox seems like an odd choice. The speculative universe is huge. Go for broke with it.

Who would you cast in a No Return movie?
Oh, I'm so bad with actors. I have the worst memory for them. Still, I'll try, knowing that most of these folks are a bit too old...

Ebn - Tilda Swtinton
Pol - Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Vedas - Djimon Hounsou
Churls - Samantha Morton
Adrash - Idris Elba (of course)
Berun - Keith David

Who is your favorite author?
That's a tough one. Very tough. Roger Zelazny is easily my biggest influence, but I don't think I enjoy his books as much as I used to. (Part of the the reason for this is that some people can reread and take more out of fiction, but I tend to dislike rereading.) Still, because of the amount I've taken from his work, I'll go ahead and say him. He was the beginning, for me.

What is your favorite book?
Resurrection Man, by Sean Stewart. It's a frighteningly beautiful book, unlike anything I've read before or since. The end is so good that it pretty much kills me. I'll never write anything that good. It just won't happen. And I'm okay with that, mostly.

What are you reading now?
I just started reading reMIND, by Jason Brubaker. I'd never heard of it, which isn't surprising because I don't really read too many webcomics or graphic novels. When I saw Jason's display at Phoenix Comicon just last weekend, I knew I had to have it. The art is stellar, and thus far the story is great.

Is there a book that made you want to be a writer?
Wow. Never got anything close to that question. You're making me think!
You know what? I have no idea. I think it was a slow accumulation of jealousy toward writers, in general. I wanted to have a book, too! Until the age of thirty, however, I didn't think I could accomplish a novel. It seemed way too difficult. It still feels that way, most days.

Is No Return your first published work?
Novel, yes. Before that, I'd had a few years of fairly steady short story sales.

What's next for Zachary Jernigan?
Oh, so many things! Well, one thing. The sequel (and narrative end) to No Return, Shower of Stones, will be out in the spring of next year. I'm working on it now, and, well, I hope it's good. it's certainly different tonally than the first book. Beyond that, I'll remind folks that the paperback of No Return is out on July 1st!

Any advice for aspiring writers?
Yep. Read more critically and write less often. That may be counter-intuitive to some, but the simple fact (in my opinion, of course) is that most writers begin too early, trying to do too many things, long before they've developed a real ear for language. That helps cement bad habits and can cloud you to all the failing you're doing. Acquire some taste and a distinct aesthetic. Be discerning and a bit of a dickhead about literature.

Basically, go ahead and judge what you read, and try to do it better when you've really got something to say.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Mr. Mercedes

Mr. MercedesMr. Mercedes by Stephen King

A madman driving a Mercedes plows into a crowd of job seekers, killing eight and injuring many more. A year later, the retired detective formerly in charge of the case gets a letter from the killer, taunting him. Can retired Detective Hodges bring in the killer before he kills again?

Stephen King tries his hand at writing a straight up thriller in this outing. Was he good at it? Of course he was.

Mr. Mercedes is a page turner, a cat and mouse thriller pitting a retired detective against the one that got away. Since King is pretty good at ladling out the suspense, Mr. Mercedes is a stripped down version of the usual King song and dance, distilled down to its purest form.

As with a lot of King books, the characters go to hell and back over the course of the book. Hodges is an overweight former detective contemplating suicide when the book starts and soon returns to his detective roots. Brady Hartfield is a 30-ish guy who still lives at home with some serious mother issues when he targets Hodges. The supporting cast wasn't all that deep but Jerome and Holly really stepped up at the halfway mark.

Shifting viewpoints is never something I'm a tremendous fan of but King does it well here, as does his use of the present tense. Hartfield is an unsympathetic villain for the most part and I couldn't wait for him to get what was coming to him. That's what you get when you plot to poison someone's dog, asshole!

Extra bonus points for mentions of It, Christine, and Judas Coyne from Heart-Shaped Box. If It and Christine are movies, could Mr. Mercedes be set in the keystone world of the Dark Tower series? Something to ponder.

It wasn't all roses and revolvers, however. The hated thriller insta-love was in full effect. There were a couple logical leaps I didn't care for and Hartfield's final fate was a little bit of a letdown.

I found Mr. Mercedes to be more enjoyable than Doctor Sleep and Joyland but it was never a "drop everything and read" kind of book for me. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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Saturday, June 7, 2014

No Return

No Return: A Novel of JerounNo Return: A Novel of Jeroun by Zachary Jernigan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A tournament is announced and three warriors band together to journey to Danoor to take part. Meanwhile, two mages plot to travel to the outer atmosphere to confront the god Adrash...

Over the past few years, I've made no secret of the fact that I'm partial to fantasy that dares to step outside the Tolkien-via-Dungeons-and-Dragons box. No Return certainly fits the bill.

No Return is one of those books that I struggle to describe. Cosmic fantasy akin to Michael Moorcock, Roger Zelazny, and Jack Kirby? Partly, but it's also a hero's journey, at least to a point.

Vedas is the closest thing to a straight up hero in the book. He wears a Blacksuit, a garment made of the skin of one of the eldermen, beings who predate humans. Look, I said this was a special book, just follow me. He's torn between his loyalty to the order and his feelings toward Churls. Churls is a gambler, drunk, and quite a fighter, struggling with her feelings toward Vedas and is haunted by the host of her dead daugher. Berun, the artifical man, is conflicted between his loyaly toward his master and his feelings toward his new friends. And that's just the warriors journeying to the tournament.

While the tournament thread was my favorite part of the book, the mages looking to supplant Adrash were a close second. How can you not love mages flying to the moon to confront a god? Ebn and Pol both proved to be well rounded characters. Lots of twists in the mage thread. Adrash reminded me of a combination of the Silver Surfer and one of Jack Kirby's later creations, the New Gods. He was unlike the usual petulant child or all-knowing figure gods are normally portrayed as in fantasy. Adrash is a force of nature you do not want to cross.

The subject matter reminded me of Roger Zelazny, Michael Moorcock, Jack Vance, and Philip Jose Farmer, fantasy with shades of science fiction. The worldbuilding was just the way I like it, deep but not deep enough to drown in. The writing was detailed without being overwritten, again, something I'm a big fan of. For a fantasy book, there's a fair amount of sex to go with the violence.

I'm probably just being fickle by not slapping a five star rating on this. It's the first book in a trilogy but feels fairly self contained. I really don't have anything to complain about. I enjoyed the shit out of this and look forward to whatever Zachary Jernigan serves up next. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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Friday, June 6, 2014

Lorn Again: Another Interview with Edward Lorn

Today's guest is Edward Lorn, author of Cruelty and fabled member of the two-timers club.

For the readers catching up, give an elevator pitch for Cruelty.
CRUELTY is my attempt at creating a realistic slasher film in serial form, and by realistic I mean a story wherein the characters react realistically to unstoppable forces. No one in CRUELTY runs up the stairs when there’s a perfectly good back door to use. No one dashes into the woods when there’s a car at their disposal. And every character has real-world flaws. I’m a firm believer that even the worst of us (humanity) have our good streaks, and, sometimes, good people do bad things. CRUELTY is all that, but, like any good horror film, it’s a thrill ride that should keep the reader guessing at every turn.

Cruelty 5 is slated to be the biggest episode yet.  What's the deal, Lorn?
The simple answer to that question is: I couldn’t find a decent place to stop. It seemed every one of the characters had something to say or do in episode five, so I went with the flow. I think the episode builds up nicely, and then ends with a bang many won’t see coming.

The harder answer is: I didn’t want to stop. There have been two lengthy delays in the editing process of this serial, and I felt I owed the fans something a bit more substantial. I admit it, I took my sweet time, but I did it for all the right reasons.

Any plans to release the Cruelty series in one big volume?
Episodes 1-5 will be available all in one volume come the end of June, and Episodes 6-10 will be released, all together, in September. After that, I will be doing a limited run of signed hardcover editions (think of it as a DVD box set of your favorite television series), which will have deleted scenes, bloopers, and character interviews. As for an omnibus edition of the series in ebook… let’s just say I’m undecided at this time.

Why are you such a jerk to Will Longmire?
Ever since Will left Innis to die in that ambulance, I lost a bit of respect for the kid. I understand that not everyone is a hero, but I think I would have done something other than run off into the night. I mean, he didn’t even try, right? Then again, I have no idea how I’d react if I ever came face to face with a murderous 600-pound baby doll. So I suppose I really don’t know why Will catches such a bad string of luck in the series, other than, “Life’s a bitch.”

When does Cruelty 5 hit the streets?
It’s looking like Episode Five will go live on or shortly after June 9th. I want this episode to be as manicured as humanly possible.

Will you be doing another serial in the future once Cruelty wraps?
If you had asked me this after Episode Three released, I would have said, “Hell yes!” But tides, they do change. When I first played with the idea of making CRUELTY a serial, I posted a poll on my blog. Over seventy percent of my followers said they liked the idea, and for the first three episodes, they rallied together and the project sold very well. When Four came out, things started to die down, and I asked everybody what they wanted me to do about the rest of the series. Only one person—one single, solitary person—said they wanted me to continue with serial installments. Everyone else proclaimed loud and proud that I should do one final volume. I’m not stupid, well… depending on who you ask anyway. Readers pay my bills, and to go against them would be the biggest betrayal. Whatever they want, I’ll do, as long as it’s in the realm of possibilities anyway.

Any non-Cruelty projects coming down the pipe?
While everybody’s waiting for the final five episodes of CRUELTY, I have a novella coming out called FOG WARNING, that should release in July. That is, if the Gods of Editing Dates lean in my favor. Then I have a novel I did with a buddy of mine, Linton Bowers, entitled PORT IN A STORM, about a murder on a space station. The latter is my first foray into science fiction, and I just hope I don’t disappoint anyone with a startling switching of gears.

What are you reading these days?
I’m currently rereading Stephen King’s Dark Tower series and having a blast. In between those books, I’m hopping around inside my two favorite genres: literary fiction and horror. I have Donna Tartt’s THE SERCRET HISTORY sitting on my nightstand, but after hating her second novel, THE LITTLE FRIEND, I’m standoffish about starting her first. I’ll get to it… eventually. Currently, King’s WIZARD AND GLASS and Victor Lavalle’s THE DEVIL IN SILVER are taking up most of my time.

The last time we spoke, I asked you to give some writing advice to aspiring writers.  How about some tips for other author publishers?
Listen to your audience. I think the biggest failure for any independent author is to lose sight of the people who buy their work. If your fans and followers want to interact with you, then interact with them. If they’d rather stay silent, keep your fucking mouth closed. Don’t respond to negative reviews, price fairly, and only provide the best content you can. In other words, pay someone to edit your goddamn books. If you’re not willing to shell out cash for your own project, why in the seven hells should anyone else?

In summation: Give a shit.

What is your favorite dirty joke of all time?
Three guys are on a road trip when their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. They decide to start beating feet until they either find a hotel or a service shop. They find the hotel first, but the owner says he only has one room, but there’s a problem: the room only has a single full-size bed. The trio reluctantly agrees. They split the bill for their stay, and head off to their room. A fight ensues regarding who’s going to be sleeping on the floor. Having all chipped in, not one of the three thinks they should be the one to catch some carpet. After a heated debate, they decide to all sleep on the one bed. Part of this arrangement states that one man will face the front wall of the room, while the other sleeps on the opposite side of the bed, facing the back wall. The man in the middle is to sleep on his back. The lights are turned out and the trio falls asleep.

The next morning, the two men who slept on the outside are exhilarated and ready to start the day, while the man in the middle is in a pissy mood. Middle Man says, “Why the hell are you two so fucking happy?” The man who faced the window last night says, “I had a dream I had the best sex I ever had in my life.” The man who faced the back wall drops his jar open in shock and exclaimed, “So did I!”

Middle man grunts, “Goddamn it. I dreamt I was skiing.”

Thursday, June 5, 2014

People I Want to Punch in the Throat

People I Want to Punch in the Throat: True(ish) Tales of an Overachieving UnderachieverPeople I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-Off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges by Jen Mann

People I Want to Punch in the Throat is a collection of blog posts from the blog of the same name.

I got this from Netgalley.

Being a regular contributor to two book blogs and a neglecter of a personal blog, I'm no stranger to blogging so I had ulterior motives for requesting this. I often wonder if people would pay a paltry sum for a distillation of my bloggings.

People I Want to Punch in the Throat covers a wide range of topics, like parents doing their kids homework for them, meeting her husband on the internet, secretly coveting a mini van, hating to clean, her three year old being a racist, getting tricked into going to a swinger's party, and various points in between. They're all pretty funny.

Jen's writing style is pretty damn funny. I quoted numerous lines out loud to my girlfriend, who laughed before asking me what the hell I was reading. I kept picturing Tina Fey playing Jen in a movie or TV version of the blog.

It's a pretty funny read but, no surprising considering the source, you're reading a bunch of blog entries. It's like reading a collection of Chuck Klosterman essays without all the pretension. It was really entertaining but I'm not sure I'd want to pay for it when I could get it for free elsewhere. How many times have I said that... ?

3.5 out of 5 stars. Funny and definitely worth the time.

Correction:  Jen informs me that the content is not gleaned from her blog and is in fact available nowhere else.

View all my reviews