Month: October 2014
Riders on the Wind by Victor H. Royer is part western, part mystery. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
A mysterious rider, who calls himself John Smith, but is known to some as the Ghost, is ambushed on the trail by two gunmen. Smith prevails, but before the gunmen die he learns from them that they’ve been hired by a fancy eastern dude to kill him. The dude can be found in the town of Apache Trail. There, Smith learns of a conspiracy against him that leads to the railroad consortium that is building nearby, but is unable to learn why anyone would want him dead.
At the same time this story unfolds, readers are introduced to the story of an unknown man and the mystery of Devil Canyon.
An interesting combination of pure western action and strange mystery, I found it an intriguing read. A few annoying typos and overly-long paragraphs did interrupt the flow of action in places, but it was nonetheless an entertaining read.
I give it three stars.
What do you think happens when 21 authors, writers of different genres from all over the globe, collaborate to put together a collection of short stories? Magic – that’s what happens. Awesome Allshorts: Last Days, Lost Ways, was edited by acclaimed author Tahlia Newland, with the able assistance of Dixiane Hallaj and Richard Bunning, all three of whom contributed stories as well.
Published by AIA Publishing (part of the Awesome Indies family), this eclectic anthology has a little bit of everything. The diversity of the genres – from funny to far out – and the international nature of the authors, makes this a collection of short fiction that is unique. As it says in the introduction, “Awesome Indies listed fiction is often unique and sometimes ground-breaking. Our authors are the bold new voices in fiction . . .”
I got my start writing short stories, winning a national Sunday school short story writing competition when I was in my teens. For the past decade or so, I’ve concentrated on novel-length fiction and non-fiction, as well as blogging, but when I saw the call for stories for this volume, I decided to take a flyer.
I’d been working on a piece for several months about a zombie – but, I was trying to write a different kind of zombie story. I’d read an interview with comic mogul Stan Lee in a magazine in my wife’s doctor’s office while waiting for her one day, in which Lee had told the interviewer he didn’t like zombie movies or stories because they were always portrayed as shuffling flesh eaters. His view was, if someone has been given another shot at life, even as a zombie, they’re more likely to want to make up for the things they didn’t do in their first life – and chasing people down to eat their flesh wasn’t one of them.
So, I’d been working on this story about a zombie that knows he’s dead, but not how or when he died. He finds himself stuck in a strange city and his impulse is to help the weak. He runs into this girl who is not freaked out by his zombie status, and – well, you can guess how it might go from there. I’d actually written two stories, the second being a sequel to the first. I submitted the first, and the response was, ‘it’s nice, but can you make it longer?’ So, I combined the two stories, and I had to admit, it did read better that way. What was really surprising to me – it was accepted for the anthology. ‘I, Zombie,’ became one of 26 stories by 21 authors to be included in Awesome Allshorts: Last Days, Lost Ways. It’s not kosher to review your own work, so I won’t tell you how fantastic I think ‘I, Zombie’ is. Instead, I’ll recommend ‘Cut Throat’ by Joan Kerr or ‘Clearing The Shed’ by Tahlia Newland. Hell fire, why don’t you just read the whole thing. It’s a surefire winner – you can take my word for it.
The e-Book version will launch at the end of October 2014, followed shortly by a paperback version. If you’re a fan of short fiction, and you’re looking for something awesome to curl up with as the days grow short and the temperature plummets, this book will warm you up like nothing else. Check it out – you won’t regret it.
Awesome Indies Site to Relaunch!
In addition to coming out with this amazing anthology, Awesome Indies will be re-launching it’s Web site November 1 – 2, with giveaways, contests, and lots of other interesting stuff. don’t miss it.
Former CIA operative Ron Granger and his wife Valerie are awakened in the middle of the night by a couple of intruders. As Ron handles the one who enters their bedroom, Valerie hears their daughter Leecy scream, and rushes to her rescue. The incident ends with one intruder subdued, beaten senseless by Ron, and the other dead, shot between the eyes by Valerie.
One would think that in Park City, Georgia, considering Georgia’s Castle Law that allows the use of deadly force to protect one’s home, and the fact that the Grangers are friends with the soon-to-be police chief, that would be the end of it. It, unfortunately, is not, as the Grangers learn that a secretive government organization was planning to kidnap their daughter, and now wants to snatch the whole family. That won’t be easy, because not only is Ron a dangerous and deadly agent, but so is Valerie.
For a thrill-a-page read, I think you’d have to search far and wide to find a book that surpasses Blood Line by John S. Davis. I received a free review copy, and once I started reading, I was as hooked as a big mouth bass on a June bug lure. Davis writes in terse, action-packed prose, without a wasted word. Acton scenes are credible, detailed, and awesome, and characters are described in full color and are fully formed. The dialogue is pithy and appropriate to the genre. Stand back Ludlum, you’ve got competition. This is an easy five-star book!
Awesome Indies, whose Web site will be relaunched in a newer more exciting version November 1 – 2, is also launching an anthology of short stories on November 8. The first 50 people who buy the anthology will get a free novel of their choice.
As a youngster, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Rice Burroughs were among the first authors I read. I was overjoyed, therefore, to receive a free review copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This volume, however, is a book with a difference. First published in 1892, the famous detective is back, thanks to Story Cartel Classics, with endnotes and articles showing how the stories offer life lessons that we can all benefit from.
So, not only do you get to read some of Doyle’s best Holmes’ stories, but at the end you’re offered examples of how the story can relate to your present circumstances – and improve them. And, as an added bonus, the e-Book has interactive links to enable readers to talk about the lessons and discuss them with other readers on the Story Cartel blog. Now, how neat is that, folks?
Take for example, the first story, ‘A Scandal in Bohemia.’ The story of the King of Bohemia who comes to Holmes for help illustrates five paths everyone can follow for a better life: 1) pay attention, 2) don’t make assumptions, 3) be authentic, 4) laugh a lot, and 5) prioritize things in your life.
This is an easy book to like, unless you just happen to be among that miniscule percentage of people who don’t like Sherlock Holmes. Actually, even if you’re not a particular fan, you’ll find it a different kind of self-help book, so give it a read anyway.
I can’t say enough good about it, so I’ll stop and say, read it, Read It, READ IT!
I received a free review copy of Ding dong! Is She Dead? NOVA Ladies Adventures, Book #1, by Alathia Paris Morgan, and, based on the title, anticipated that it would be a humorous mystery. As both a mystery and a humor fan, I particularly like when an author is able to effectively combine the two.
I wasn’t completely disappointed. The story of Jennifer Smythe, a big city girl who works in a bar who witnesses two men disposing of a corpse and ends up as Allie working in a department store in rural Texas, does have it moments of humor. There is mystery as well. The concept is solid, and author Morgan in her first effort is well on the way to making it work well.
The dialogue in this first effort was a bit stilted, and some of the transitions are a bit jumpy. Morgan gets a good grade, however, for effort. Writing mystery is difficult; writing humor even more so; and combining the two the most difficult of all. Ignoring the aforementioned issues, Morgan has done a creditable job in creating likeable characters with whom the reader can sympathize. I predict that this author will be even better in her next effort. For this one, I give three stars.
While conducting surveillance of a cheating wife, private investigator William Harrison sees a strange shining sphere darting through the night sky in Tucson, Arizona. Motorcycle cop Nick Ridley experiences radio interference while on patrol in Las Vegas, Nevada. A military convoy travels to the mountains near Las Vegas to conduct an experimental test flight, and while there observes a macabre encounter between an unidentified flying object and two military jets.
What do all these incidents have in common? You’ll have to read Truth Insurrection: The Saint Mary Project by Daniel P. Douglas to find out. Douglas, a former military man, has written a sci-fi thriller about the government’s cover-up of encounters with aliens from other worlds that will have you doubting every news report you read afterwards.
A chilling picture that takes us from the western deserts to the corridors of power in Washington, DC, where generals and politicians spar over access to information, Truth Insurrection is pure fiction – but in Douglas’s skillful hands, it has a tiny ring of truth. You’ll find yourself cheering for Harrison as he finds himself mired deeper and deeper in a conspiracy of galactic proportions.
This is Douglas’s first novel, but one has to hope not his last. I received a free review copy of Truth Insurrection, and now I’m looking forward to seeing what this author does next. Five stars for this one.
Every war spawns a whole host of books and films, and the second war in Iraq is no exception. Most, though, focus on the relationships among those who fight. ‘Marza,’ a film written, directed and produced by former Marine Regan A. Young is a film with a difference.
The story of a cynical, battle-hardened Marine sergeant (played by Josh Ansley) who meets and befriends a quizzical, precocious young Iraqi girl, Marza (Claire Geare) who likes chicken and ice cream shows us the human side of war that is seldom portrayed. Sergeant John Whitacre is a man who has seen much war, and as a result has a decidedly dark view of life in general. Marza pulls him out of his funk in ways he could never have anticipated, and teaches him to feel again.
This is a film that has both dark and light moments – and enough death to lift it from the category of a mood movie and firmly into the ‘war’ category. Young, a veteran of tours in Iraq, writes and directs this short film with a sense of awareness of the realities of war that most in the business lack. Moreover, he takes us into the depths of emotions that run rampant when death is a constant companion, and shows that even at the darkest hours, there is a glimmer of light and hope.
If ‘Marza’ doesn’t get an award for best short, independent film of 2014, there is no justice. And, if you can watch it with dry eyes, I’d suggest an immediate trip to an ophthalmologi
The world’s in a bad way. Climate change threatens to make it uninhabitable. Ebola, if unchecked, could remove a large percentage of the inhabitants before an unfriendly environment gets the chance. Police no longer seem to have the mission to ‘serve and protect,’ but rather to ‘control and dominate.’ You have to wonder how we came to such a condition.
I’ve not proven it scientifically, but if you look around – at the world, and here at home – I think you’ll come to agree with me that politics is behind a whole lot of our problems. Politics has long been defined as ‘the last refuge of scoundrels,’ but nowadays, it’s so much worse. At least, the scoundrels of the past attempted a semblance of governing for the greater good – even if they did spend a large percentage of their time stealing us blind. Today’s politicians don’t even pretend.
You have the Tea Party nuts trying to take us back to a time in history when a select few ruled, while women and the rest of us waited in the wings for their benevolence to shine down upon us. They want to rewrite history to remove all that does not conform to their distorted vision of the world and its past. Despite overwhelming evidence, you have politicians who vehemently deny the existence of climate change; all the while pocketing donations from their fat cat corporate supporters who are busy polluting the air, water, and soil, and contributing to that change. Another school shooting? Before the young corpses are cold, the toadies of the gun lobby are coming up with excuses to prevent common sense rules regarding gun possession and ownership in a country where gun violence is endemic. These politicians, who hold that demanding a photo ID from someone wanting to buy a gun at a gun show is unconstitutional, want to demand photo IDs for anyone who wants to vote.
I could go on and on, but I hope you get the point. We’re a point in our history where inequality is a big problem. There are rules and conventions for the elite, and different rules for the rest of us, and it’s the sad state of our politics that’s to blame. If we want a world where ‘all are equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,’ we need to do something about this sorry situation. Term limits, performance pay for politicians, a political ombudsman to serve as a watchdog over our errant pols? I wish I had an answer, but for now I can only air the problem and hope we can, with our collective wisdom come up with a solution.
I can tell you this, though. If we don’t do something, the balance will keep tipping until it reaches a point where the only thing left is for the whole system to fall down. Already, the richest people in America (the 1%) control a percentage of the country’s total wealth equal to what they did during the robber baron days. And, along with that wealth, they’re controlling our politics.
Think about it.
Lalla Bains is scheduled to marry her sweetheart, Sheriff Caleb Stone, but he’s a no-show at the ceremony. Angry, Lalla decides to go off and cool down. When her Aunt Mae gives her a wedding present, the deed to an old abandoned mining property in Wishbone, Arizona, Lalla decides it’s far enough away from Modesto, California to meet her needs, so off she goes with her father to check out her new property.
Things quickly go from bad to worse when her dad goes off by himself, and she later finds him at the bottom of an old mine pit, along with the body of Wishbone’s sheriff.
R.P. Dahlke’s A Dead Red Alibi is a rib-tickling murder mystery, with enough chuckles and scares to keep you awake for a good long time. Witty dialogue, descriptive settings, and more plot twists than a roller coaster at a Six Flags amusement park, this story sets the standard for humorous mystery. Between laughing and shivering, you’ll find something here to like on almost every page. It has everything, from coyotes (both the four-legged kind and the alien smuggling kind) to cold-hearted killers for chills, and wacky characters with enough unresolved issues to warm the heart of a therapist. This one’s a keeper, for sure.
An easy five stars for Dahlke’s fourth volume in the Dead Red series of humorous mysteries.
Teenager Owen Johnson has a secret – one that at first even he doesn’t understand. He has the amazing ability to do things that should be physically impossible. And, there’s that blue glow that appears when he does them. For a young man about to finish school it’s truly a perplexing situation. Only the old lady, Mrs. Argyle, seems to understand, until Owen meets Ken. It seems that the three of them all have these remarkable abilities.
A.D. Elliott’s The Remarkables, which I received a free review copy of, is the tale of how Owen learns to live with his powers. A well-told tale that is part fantasy, part science fiction, and totally entertaining – despite a few grammatical glitches in the opening chapters. You’ll be swept along in suspense as Owen and his friends contend with the mysterious Trilby.
Elliott does a good job of creating a situation which makes it easy to suspend disbelief. A fantastic – no, remarkable – tale that will entertain readers of all ages. A solid three stars.
“If the Sun and Moon should ever doubt, they’d immediately go out.” This quote by William Blake starts the introduction to Bryan Hutchinson’s excellent mentoring volume for writers, Writer’s Doubt: The #1 Enemy of Writing (and What You Can Do about it). I was fortunate to get a free review copy, and after reading it, I only wish Hutchinson had written it many years ago when I was just getting started in the business of writing.
There’s not a writer who has not at some time or other been paralyzed by doubts about his or her ability to master the art of writing – who is suddenly struck with such doubt, there is a certainty that no one wants to read what has been laboriously put upon the page. Using his own experiences in overcoming doubt, Hutchinson takes the reader on a journey that will help banish the demons of self-doubt, and set the writer on the path to self-fulfillment. He writes in a self-deprecating manner, unlike many authors of books on how-to write, that is easy to identify with. He also includes a lot of practical advice that is useful for any writer, whether plagued with doubt or not.
Whether you’re just beginning on the journey or are a veteran from the trenches, this is a reference book that you should have in your library. Four stars to Bryan Hutchinson for an excellent book.
If you’re a fan of esoteric, boundary jumping fiction, Richard Bunning’s Another Space in Time is the book you should read.
Arthur Fieldman is given a new lease on life when the heart of recently deceased Rodwell Richards is transplanted into his body. Problem is – Rodwell’s memories, or some semblance thereof, come with the heart.
Bunning explores a whole host of –isms, philosophies, and schools of thought in this sometimes funny, sometimes eerie romp with Arthur as he tries to come to grips with his ‘new’ existence. Bunning not only creates a whole new world, but does the full monte by creating a new calendar, time system – the whole shooting match. He even comes up with a new version of Latin; and it works.
Not since Doug Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy have I read an author who can just pull words and concept out of the deep recesses of his brain and make you believe the world he’s created as effectively as Bunning. If you want an entertaining weekend read, you have to get this book.
Five stars as soon as I pick myself up off the floor.
In 1260, after the battle between Sienese and Florentine forces in Tuscanny, lifelong friends, Enrico Ventura and Carlo Benevento, who have stood together in battle, make a vow to wed their firstborn children. Carlo, crippled before battle, and Enrico, seriously wounded during the battle, though they might be the vest of friends, do not take into account the relationship between their spouses, Prudenza and Felicia.
Jealous of Felicia for being the first to become pregnant, and then having twin boys, Prudenza casts the evil eye on her. Learning of this, Felicia goes to the sorceress Cosma and obtains the knowledge to cause the evil spell to rebound, and thus the lives of the Venturas and Beneventos take an eventful and nasty turn.
I received a free review copy of Orphan of the Olive Tree by Mirella Sichirollo Patzer, the first book I’ve ever read by this author. While I’m not normally a romance genre reader, I found this tale spellbinding and an absolutely fascinating read. The characters are complex, with the mixture of good and bad that is common in the human species, and the interplay – with a healthy dollop of romance as you might expect for the genre – between and among characters makes compelling reading. I particularly like the way Patzer inserts the history of the era into her story, making it a part of the characters’ lives, and thus bringing it to life for readers.
If all romance authors wrote like this, I’d be a total fan of this genre. For now, though, I think I’ll stick to reading Patzer’s books. An easy four-star rating.
James Gallowbread sat out the Civil War as a guest in Lafayette Prison. Freed after serving an extra month of his seven-year sentence due to a contagious illness, he is thirty-two years old and knows no real trade – other than the illegal kind.
I’m not only a fan of the western genre, but write it as well, so I was more than pleased to receive a free review copy of Orphan Elixir by Joseph Hirsch. Hirsch tells the tale in the first person, in the style of fiction of the immediate post-Civil War era, and pulls it off extremely well. The reader can see, hear, smell, and feel the setting and people of Gallowbread’s world as seen through his jaundiced eyes.
Not at first a truly sympathetic character, as we get to know Gallowbread more, he becomes real, and not at all a totally bad sort. Hirsch gets points for his ability to take a flawed character and show what made him thus. He also effectively merges humor and pathos in a tale that you’ll find hard to put down until you reach the end.
My hat’s off to a western author to be looked out for. Four stars to Hirsch for Orphan Elixir.
Ray Courage was a college professor with a major addiction to baseball. When a student tried unsuccessfully to seduce him to get a better grade, and then accused him of coming on to her, he gave up teaching, and decided to become a private investigator.
When his former lover, Jill Stroud, comes to him with a plea to help her dad who thinks he’s about to be cheated, Courage has some doubts about this, his first case, but takes it anyway.
In Courage Matters by R. Scott Mackey, follow the sometimes funny, sometimes scary adventures of Ray Courage as he learns to be a PI – with the help of Rubia, a former gang-banger who owns the Say Hay Bar, a baseball-themed establishment.
I received a free review copy of Courage Matters, and while it was my first time reading Mackey’s work, I’m looking forward to another turn at bat.
Great dialogue and description, and some really wacky, but totally believable characters, and I like the way the author weaves his encyclopedic knowledge of baseball into the story. Mackey gets five stars for this one.
“What if there had been social media during the first mission to land a man on the Moon in 1969?” With these words, author Philip Gibson introduces #Houston 69: Apollo 11 – When Man Walked on the Moon, an account of the Apollo Moon landing told via social media postings, primarily tweets.
Gibson, a UK author who was 19 when American astronauts first set foot on the lunar surface, is an accomplished historical writer who makes historical events come alive in a most unique way. His ‘created’ social media posts put us into the minds of the principals to these events in a way that mainstream history books, and even most historical fiction, simply cannot do. From the straight-forward comments by noted newsman Walter Cronkite to the poetic waxings of Eric Severaid, he sets up the pre-launch period, a time when the success of the mission was only a dream. Postings from launch control, the White House, media, and most importantly, the astronauts themselves, show the tension of events, large and small as Neil Armstrong and the crew of Apollo 11 set off on a mission that could have very well been one-way.
From pre-launch until splashdown, you’ll be on the edge of your seat as postings describe events – mundane and momentous – of one of mankind’s most historic undertakings. In the process, thanks to the brief bio information that Gibson provides, you’ll learn things about the history of the period that I can assure you, you never knew before.
Five stars to Gibson for another ‘out of the park’ home run!