Month: June 2014
Video of the transfer of PFC Gordon from France to the United States.
When billionaire Nicolas Sheridan survives a plane crash but has a near death experience, he becomes obsessed with the phenomenon. He sets about recruiting others with similar experiences to explore it further. In the course of the investigation, he discovers that the door between life and death swings both ways, and that there’s something on the ‘other’ side with an insatiable hunger.
Steven Savile and David Sakmyster have created a chilling tale in Lazarus Initiative that will keep you on the edge of your chair glancing furtively over your shoulder. The key to good fiction is its ability to get the reader to suspend disbelief. By that standard, Savile and Sakmyster have done a first rate job. After reading this book, I’m not sure I’ll sleep tonight.
Four stars for a well-told tale.
Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves is an interesting collection of short stories by Diane Ascroft. An urban Canadian who has transplanted herself to rural Ireland, she writes of women in similar circumstances in six stories that will delight you. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review. Ascroft is an entertaining writer whose characters are as adventurous and feisty as I imagine she is. They face situations that you’ll fine quite believable, and deal with them in ways that are entertaining.
My only criticism of Ascroft is that she didn’t include more stories in this maiden voyage. I hope she won’t disappoint and will set sail with more soon.
Four stars to Ascroft and Dancing Shadows.
Clive Brown is a man with a lot on his plate. His mother, formerly Maria Ferguson, is not a male parent (George Brown), having undergone a sex change operation, and he’s a fan of American popular culture – especially the CSI TV series. In 2008, Clive returns to his home in Vancouver, where he gets caught up with the strangest assembly of characters you could ever imagine.
That pretty much sums up D. M. Archer’s The Astral Projection Conspiracy, which I received a free copy of in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, I found it a hard slog. Not a bad book, but perhaps a tad too long. The characters are interesting in their flaws, and Archer does a fairly good job of painting them fully. It is a bit difficult trying to parse their motivations at times, though, and truly the book wasn’t as scary as I’d expected it to be, given it’s categorized under the horror genre.
In many ways, Archer’s writing reminds me of James Baldwin’s approach to a story – build things up slowly, interspersing long, relatively dry passages with flares of conflict or angst. For fans of that kind of writing, this is just your kind of story. For people who like their action uncomplicated, and for horror to give you chills at least every five or ten pages, you might find The Astral Projection Conspiracy a difficult read. There are the occasional flashes of brilliance in this book, so I know Archer is capable of much, much better, and I look forward to his next offering.
I’m giving it two and a half stars.
For a cop, Cobb Takamura has it good. His beat is a bit of paradise. Until, that it, bodies start cropping up all over the place. Takamura very quickly finds that every paradise has its serpents in Vector, by Rob Swigart. I received a free copy in exchange for my honest review.
A story that starts on a high note, and then takes you on an up-and-down, side-to-side roller coaster ride of suspense and intrigue, Vector has all the ingredients of a mystery-thriller, from a shadowy government agency involved in secret research that it’s willing to kill to keep secret, to the ‘looking for meaning’ outsider who helps Takamura solve a string of deaths that at first seem unrelated – but aren’t.
I won’t say more about Vector, for fear that I’d spoil it for you. Swigart knows his stuff, though. The pacing is pretty good, and the technical stuff is credible – maybe not precisely accurate, but believable. The only significant problem with this story is the confusion about just ‘when’ it takes place. The characters are interesting enough that you sometimes forget that, but it crops up now and then in some inconvenient places that can disrupt the flow of your reading.
If you have enough time, you can do this book in one sitting. But, you might want to take your time to really absorb all the twists and turns of an intricately woven tale. The timeline problem notwithstanding, it’s a pretty good read.
I give it three stars.
I just found a new site devoted to helping authors promote their books – the Cold Coffee Cafe. They help you set up your own page where you can promote the dickens out of your published works, and I must say I like the user-friendly format. Check out my page, which I think is finally humming smoothly, and tell me what you think.
Really sharp-eyed readers will notice that this is the second installment in two weeks of my offering for Alec Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I did a piece last week on creating fully rounding supporting characters in your stories. One reader caught me on the fact that I was out of sync – I guess everyone else was just too polite. That sharp-eyed reader said (tongue in cheek, perhaps) that I did it deliberately to see if anyone was paying attention. As much as I’d like to go along with that, truth is, I was just so busy with my writing projects and a few other jobs I’m doing right now I misread my calendar and thought June started last week. I broke the rule. And, that’s my real topic this week – writing rules and whether we should feel bound by them.
There are more rules on writing than I can count – so I’ve basically given up on most of them. I’m instantly suspicious of any writing advice that contains the words ‘always’, ‘never’, and ‘must.’ Even the rules of grammar can and should be broken on occasion.
Now, having dropped that controversial little bomb into the conversation let me explain. I don’t think you should necessarily ignore or be ignorant of the rules. I do believe, though, that you should consider junking them when the essence of the story you’re writing demands it. Take grammar for instance. In dialogue, if every character in your story speaks with absolutely ‘by-the-book- grammar, imagine how boring it will sound – and unreal. Real people butcher the language, and within reason, so should some of your characters. Fragmentary sentences, misuse of verbs, the whole ball of wax. Let your characters speak in keeping with their background, etc., and your story will be better for it. Regarding grammar rules, by the way – remember that ditty ‘it’s I before e except after c or when followed by g’? What about rein, ceiling, etc.? These words break the rules, and sometimes – so should you.
There’s more. Rules like start the action on the first few pages, for example. Not a bad idea for a lot of stories, but you can write a chilling tale by holding back on violent physical activity and just building up to it in some other stories.
I could go on and on, but the guts of what I’m saying is that you should let your story determine how and what you do. By all means know the rules. But, also know when breaking them is okay.
Jack Handler is a retired Chicago police detective who lives on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. When the father of his nephew’s friend turns up missing on Lake Superior with nine other people when they were out searching for the wreckage of a Minoan ship that supposedly sank around 1200 BC, Jack and his NYPD detective daughter Kate find themselves up to their necks in danger and intrigue. Author Michael Carrier’s Superior Peril: Murder on 123 is a well-woven tale in the manner of James Patterson.
I particularly like the way Carrier weaves the story of the Minoan ship far in the past with the derring-do and dastardly deeds of the present. Crisp dialogue and well-developed characters will keep you reading to the end, and gasping for more.
A very easy four-star story.