Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Sci-Fi, 1950's Style: A Review of Die Laughing

My book review of Die Laughing by Louis K. Lowy:

What do you get when you cross a 1950’s sci-fi satire with a gangster flick and throw in some emotional subplots for good measure? One heck of a good book, that’s what. Die Laughing by Louis K. Lowy is an impressive and terrific novel.

Sam E. Lakeside is a 1950’s Las Vegas comic on his way up the show biz ladder, until he finds himself on the wrong side of some gangsters and gets kidnapped by aliens. And the trouble keeps coming, as Sam lands right in the middle of a plot to steal the world’s oil that involves his guest spot on the Steve Allen show. Now it’s up to him, and his two friends Lee and Cricket, to stop the aliens.

On the surface, Die Laughing is both a satire and homage to the culture of the 1950’s, rifting through such icons as comedians, gangsters, science fiction movies, comic books and television. The author knows the era and recreates 1950’s America -from Las Vegas to New York- perfectly. There are subtle touches masterfully done and as a sci-fi geek, I loved the references to the old movies and comic books. It even has a good dose of jokes, sprinkled in 1950’s cheese.

But Die Laughing also has a subtle and well crafted emotional depth that lifts it above light entertainment and gives the reader strong, flawed characters. There is also a multi-layered plot undercurrent that moves the pace and tension of the book to keep the reader hooked. This novel steers you in familiar directions, but still manages to keep you guessing until the finish with ambiguous possibilities and outcomes. Even the end itself was left a little up in the air, while still concluding the storyline. Die Laughing is complex, fun and highly enjoyable.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Chills, Thrills and Grey: A Review of The Egyptian by Layton Green

My Book Review of The Egyptian by Layton Green:

The Egyptian is an engaging blend of corporate espionage and paranormal conspiracy wound together a tense, gripping thriller. It has a tight, well constructed plot, engaging characters and did a nice job of pulling me, the reader, through to the end while retaining that air of mystery.

The Egyptian is the second novel featuring Dominic Grey first introduced in the novel The Summoner. In this go-round Grey is working for Viktor Radek, professor of religious phenomenology, investigator and consultant on the subject of dangerous cults. Viktor is contacted by an Egyptian businessman, Al-Miri, and he puts Grey on the case to track down a mysterious stolen test tube. As the case progresses Grey has to unravel lies, murder and the secrets of a strange and ancient Egyptian deity, while navigating the perils of a possible romance with a beautiful reporter, Veronica Brown.

I liked the book and found it a compelling read. The characterizations in this novel are excellent, bringing vigorous personalities to life with both strengths and flaws. All the individuals portrayed are absorbing as they play their parts in the taut cat-and-mouse drama of the story. And I appreciated that the romance subplot was built without the overkill of the typical “damsel-in-distress” mentality.

I enjoyed the subtle undertone of the arcane in the book. It never develops into a full-blown paranormal, but maintains its hint of the unknown enough to keep the reader intrigued. The author walks the fine line between realism and fantasy expertly. Also, the plotline was logical, flowed with a good pace and the science was worked in to the story without boring the reader. A few times I thought the book was headed into standard thriller territory, but the plot never became overly predictable. The ending was an especially nice surprise, avoiding any inevitable showdown clichés.

The Egyptian is an entertaining, fully satisfying book that kept my rapt attention from start to finish.


Thursday, 18 August 2011

Interview with James D. Sanderson

Today, the fascinating author James D. Sanderson stops by to be interviewed about his book, The Angelic Mysteries, and his life as a writer.


Interview with James D. Sanderson



1- Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

I am a 59 year old full time writer who lives in SW Colorado with my wife and we are raising our granddaughter. I love to hike, camp, and boat as well as reading and writing.

2- How long have you been writing?

I have been writing since I was twelve years old. I have worked other jobs along the way but I always knew that sooner or later I could become a professional writer.


3- Can you tell us about your book, ‘The Angelic Mysteries’?

This novella is not long, but it is the distilled essence of the fantasy and thriller genre. Here we have Daniel Allman, a young bachelor, who meets and falls in love with a woman, Sarah, who believes she is an angel. They are being hounded through Europe by a psychopath she believes is an anti-angel bent upon capturing her and doing her harm.


4- Why did you decide to write in the fantasy genre?

Fantasy lets an author explore the whole range of human experience and beyond. The introduction of angels and anti-angels into the human experience can become symbolic, also, of much more.


5- What is the hardest part of writing fantasy fiction?

Well, in spite of the fact that I could let my imagination roam, I still had to consider what was within the reader’s realm of experience and not let the reader become lost in my fantasy.


6- Were there any surprises in the process of writing your books?

‘The Angelic Mysteries’ really began as a thriller and the fantasy aspects simply took over as I wrote. Then, I began to explore more and more the extent of our experience with the spirit world and our ‘clinging’ to the real world.


7- What sort of research did you do for your books?

I spend a lot of time in the library but more and more the internet is becoming central to my research activities. Even though we may write in the fantasy genre, we must keep our facts straight. There is really no reason for an author to screw up the facts when we have the facts at our fingertips. (I am always careful to source my research, however, and to fall for subjective views found everywhere online).


8- What advice would you give beginning writers?

Just write. Don’t let anyone stop you. Read everything and write always. Throw away what you know stinks, but don’t be afraid to find and keep the gems in your work even if they don’t seem to fit anywhere right now.


9- Who has inspired you as an author?

I have been inspired by all the ‘classic’ writers from Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky to Hemingway and Faulkner and Borges to Garcia Marquez.


10- What’s next for you?

I am currently finishing a collection of short stories about the nonviolent revolutions of 1989 called ‘Sacred Are The Brave’ which is coming out in the Spring of 2012.


For more on James D. Sanderson check out these sites:
Blog: http://www.jamesdsanderson.blogspot.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jamesdsandersonbooks
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001K7VMEK

 

The Angelic Mysteries:

Traveling to Europe to escape the specter of madness in his life, Daniel Allman meets and falls in love with a woman who believes herself to be an angel.  She is being pursued by a psychopath, a man she believes is an anti-angel.  An action-packed thriller, a tender love story, and a literary adventure. The Angelic Mysteries: Where Heaven and Earth Meet.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Fantastic Fantasy: A Review of "On Dark Shores: The Lady"

My Book Review of On Dark Shores: The Lady by JA Clement:


On Dark Shores: The Lady by JA Clement is an enthralling page-turner and I adored the book. The marvellous story sucked me in from page one and the way the author weaves her narrative elements together, I believe she may be the literary child of Charles Dickens and Ursula K. le Guin.

In the town of Scarlock, a series of events are unfolding on a course to collide with unforeseen consequences. The thief Nereia and her sister Mary, the moneylender Copeland and his enforcer Blakey, the fence Mickel seem to be headed toward the mysterious forces surrounding the Mother of the Shantari.

Sometimes you find a book that is such a delight to read, you don’t want to pry your eyes away from the page; On Dark Shores: The Lady is such a book. You fall in this world of fantasy from the first word, swept along by a wave of mystery, struggle, fear and appealingly genuine characters. The author serves you a world you can almost smell and taste and hear, where people act from hidden motives, spite, desperation, honour, duty and even cruelty. There is an entrancing spell woven from every fibre, with characters scheming revenge or thievery, manipulating for their own ends, fighting to escape and survive. But still, a certain thread of hope or fate winds a subtle touch through the book to elevate any grim or bleak ambience, giving the plot a radiating spark.

The only bad thing about this novel is that it ended too soon, but as it is the first in a series I can look forward to more. The end left tantalising questions still pending and I’m salivating to read the next instalment. Lucky for me, there was a sneak peek at the next part tucked away at the end of the book.

On Dark Shores: The Lady is one of the best fantasy books I’ve read in a while, and I recommend you beg, borrow or buy this book. You won’t be disappointed.


 
On Dark Shores: The Lady is also available on Smashwords

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Storytime Wednesday: Eminent Domain by Erin O'Riordan and Tit Elingtin

Welcome to the last edition of Storytime Wednesday, where we enchanted your imagination or teased your senses, with featured stories and book excerpts.


Today's guest writers are a pair of authors, Erin O'Riordan and Tit Elingtin who bring an excerpt from their novel, Eminent Domain.
 
 
An Excerpt from Eminent Domain
 
After Jeff finished his meal he moved up to the bar. He sat on the bar stool he called his "Norm seat." Steve was bartending. He said, "Hey buddy, how’s it going?"
"Good, Steve. How have you been?" Jeff asked.
"What can I get you?" Steve said.
"Guinness, please, and a shot of Gentleman Jack."
Jeff loved talking with Steve. He sat there drinking for a hour. Kendra called while he was at the bar and they talked for a while too. Jeff told her about his fishing adventure and said he would call her when he got home. It was a little after eight o’clock, and Jeff decided to call it a night. "You can total me out," Jeff said to Steve, giving him his credit card. Jeff wrote $300 in the tip slot and gave Steve instructions: "You keep a hundred. Give Jim and Jenny a hundred each, okay?"
"Wow! You bet, Jeff," Steve said.
Jeff said his goodbyes to everyone and went to the back door. It was raining. He paused there, thinking about calling a cab for the four-block journey. Jenny came around the corner.
"Thanks, hun, for the tip. That was awesome. You have no idea how much I needed it."
Jeff said, "No problem. You deserve it. Are you going out for a smoke?"
"No, going home. I’m done for the night. What are you doing?" Jenny asked.
"It’s raining. I’m thinking about calling a cab. It’s too cold to walk home wet.”
"I’ll give you a ride. Come on.”
Jeff didn’t hesitate. He followed Jenny out to her car, parked nearby. She pushed the unlock button on her key fob and they jumped in out of the rain.
Jeff said, "I live on Cedar Street. The bridge is in my front yard."
"I know where you live. I’ve been there before," Jenny said.
Jeff looked surprised. Jenny said, "When Lex lived there I was there a few times. Please don’t say anything, but I think it’s awful how he’s treated you and Kendra."
Jeff said, "I won’t say anything. Thank you. He’ll learn someday. I can’t be invested in him anymore. He treats me like I’m second class and I won’t put up with that."
Jenny said, "I don’t blame you. I have to stay out of it since he’s my boss." Jenny pulled into Jeff’s driveway and turned off her car. "I’d love to see what it looks like now that you’ve finished it," she said.
Jeff stopped, his hand on the door handle. "I’d love to let you, but Kendra’s not here. I’ve always had a thing for you, Jenny, but Kendra and I have an agreement: no one of the opposite sex in the house without the other one being here. I love her too much to break my rule. I’m sorry. I hope you understand."
"Kendra’s a lucky woman to have you," Jenny said.
"You tell her that next time you see her. She knows I like you. She’ll be fine with knowing you said that. She’ll know you brought me home. I tell her everything." Jeff winced, knowing he was keeping a big secret from Kendra. He exited the door and said, "You have a good night, Jenny. Thanks for the ride."
"Thank you for the tip!" Jenny said.
Jeff went into the house. Grabbing his cell phone from his pocket he called Kendra. "Hi, baby. I miss you." He told her everything that had happened since they last talked. They talked for an hour. Jeff sat in what he called “The Helm,” a bay window area on the second floor that looked out to the river. He sat in his favorite chair, drinking Jack Daniels, and passed out.


ABOUT ERIN O'RIORDAN:
Erin O'Riordan lives in the Midwestern United States with her husband and co-author Tit Elingtin. Her short stories, essays, and film reviews have been published in numerous magazines and websites.
Readers can view more of her work at http://www.aeess.com/

ABOUT TIT ELINGTIN:

Tit Elingtin is a warrior by nature, ready to argue or fight for the disenfranchised at a moment's notice. He takes no prisoners, crushes his enemies and loves deep and hard. Tit expects his friends to be loyal to the truth above all. He describes his philosophical views like this: "As the river flows, it is as one. We are as the mist of the waterfall, joining others and separating as we fall to be one with the river once again."







Eminent Domain by Erin O'Riordan and Tit Elingtin is also available through Smashwords

Monday, 1 August 2011

Worlds of Fantasy with Author David Brown

Today we have another guest stopping by, author David M. Brown is visiting as part of his blog tour for his book Fezariu's Epiphany.  He will be discussing the fascinating topic of building a fictional fantasy world. 
And all you lucky commenters get a chance to win a $25 gift certificate from Amazon, as that prize will be given away at the end of his tour (so be sure to check out the rest of his stops and comment for more chances to win).  So now on with the show, and David...


World Builders


One day in 1999 I was a college student who suddenly became a god. As you can imagine this sort of thing does take one by surprise but don’t worry, this wasn’t a visitation from some celestial being, it was the start of my fictitious world – Elenchera. Hours spent immersed in Final Fantasy VII on the Playstation and an introduction to Norse mythology had triggered the god within me and I knew it was time to create a world that would form the background to a series of novels.

Creating a world is no small feat and that’s just me being honest and not showing off! There are no right or wrong answers but, for me, I began by drawing a world map. I have no qualifications from the University of Cartography and my first world map was an undoubted work of naivety. Some squiggles that were mostly green with some yellow bits for deserts, brown pointy bits for mountains and let’s not forget that blue stuff that takes ages to colour in because it’s the ocean! Yes, my first world map was some simple lines coloured in with crayons but it was a start and once I’d started naming the individual lands the history began to take shape. Geographical features alone can dictate the history of your world. Are islands and continents near each other always going to be friends? If you have monarchs hungry for war then where better to start than your nearest neighbours when extending your kingdoms? The placing of towns also depends on your geography. Not many, if any, will be in the desert or mountains: the terrain isn’t the easiest to settle in and don’t forget the need for your locals to have access to water in the form of rivers and lakes. This very basic approach is how I began Elenchera, all seemingly obvious stuff but I knew it had to be right.

Once those maps were done - and over time there have been 500+ - I thought about world creation from a metaphysical point of view. There have been many myths about how our world started so I drew inspiration from them and chose the route of a god that created Elenchera with the assistance of a group of servants. A simple approach but it worked well in shaping the early centuries of Elenchera especially when I threw in a rebellion and war fought between the principal deity and his now former servants, the traditional good versus evil struggle. That war was fought on a huge landmass known as Elenchera but in the aftermath the world was broken up into twenty-three separate lands each with their own unique societies. Moving between each of the lands was time-consuming but essential.

I have a great love of history so being able to create my own from scratch was a privilege rather than an ordeal. I read Cassell’s World History from cover to cover, to understand early settlement and the progress of civilisations that rise to power and suffer inevitable falls from grace. This has happened all over the world at some point. We have the capacity to become powerful but can never hang onto it forever. With that book as reference I took each land in turn and imagined settlers first arriving there and building their first towns, slowly making their way across the terrain and building new settlements as and where geographical constraints would allow. You’ll find once you’ve taken these early steps the rest soon follows. You’ll have times of peace, war between nations, rebellions, journeys of discovery, advances in science and agriculture, maybe even your own Renaissance periods or Golden Ages for architecture or rises in popularity of literature. The possibilities are endless. I’ve spent more than ten years building Elenchera and it stands at 2,000+ pages and more than 47,000 years of history. Some may call me mad but I just smile and say I never knew madness could be so much fun!


Author Bio:


David M. Brown was born in Barnsley in 1982 and first conceived the idea of Elenchera in college. His love of history and English led him to read these subjects at Huddersfield University. David is inspired by medieval history, Norse mythology and Japanese role-playing video games and anime films. He lives in Huddersfield with his wife Donna and their six rescue cats.


You can find more of David and Elenchera over at these websites:

The Elencheran Chronicles: http://elenchera.com/

The World According to Dave: http://blog.elenchera.com/

Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/elenchera
http://www.facebook.com/fezariu

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/elenchera



Fezariu's Epiphany

The White Oak, Clarendon’s oldest brothel, lured and destroyed men by the thousands. Fezariu was different. He had never been drawn by the White Oak’s vices but the brothel had still ruined him when he was just a boy.
Salvation came in the form of the Merelax Mercenaries – Elenchera’s most prestigious hired hands. They gave Fezariu the chance to escape from his past. Immersed in the world of dangerous assignments in the colonies Fezariu longed to forget everything about his childhood but only in facing the past would he ever be free of it.



Excerpt:

Prologue-

A sudden lull in the snowfall allowed the overhanging moon to bask the valley in its nocturnal splendour. Fezariu’s gaze fell upon the crystalline glitter on the surface of the snow and he felt a slight ironic smile come to his numb lips as he absorbed this intricate beauty in the midst of countless fading lives. In his arms, Tessera awoke and now seemed oblivious to the mortal wound she had suffered in the battle the mercenaries had so decisively lost.

"Do you remember when we first trained with General Bayard, Fezariu?" Tessera asked, briefly closing her eyes, causing tears to run down her face, their trace briefly alleviating the bitter and enveloping cold.

"My erstwhile teacher with selective hearing," Fezariu replied with a wry smile. "How could I forget?"

When Tessera failed to respond, Fezariu began to feel her edging closer to delirium. Her questions became frequent though she awaited no response or acknowledgement of any kind from Fezariu.

"Do you remember sitting on the wall overlooking Redemption with Vintaro and smoking Mizuansi?" Tessera asked, between painful coughs. "I can still see the luminous stars through the myriad of colours rising from the bowls of our pipes. The seemingly endless conflict throughout the streets was over and with it the rebellion. The city stood subdued and silent save for the foundations of the tallest buildings that still trembled in the aftermath of the devastation. Do you remember the torches that lit up the harbour at Strathmore? Our journey to Clarendon changed everything. We should never have gone there. It was never the same after that. Do you remember, Fezariu?"




 

You can find the complete schedule of dates for David M. Brown's Blog Tour here:  http://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com/2011/06/virtual-book-tour-fezarius-epiphany-by.html









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