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Guest Post: Lesley L. Smith

Hey all, not a lot to say here, but I’ve been looking forward to this. Enjoy!

Lesley L. Smith writes about her new science fiction novel Conservation of Luck:

 

I find being a writer is a long, and sometimes surprising, journey. When you start out on the path, you never know where you might end up. This is true for a career as a whole and for individual books. You also never know what you’ll learn along the way. Hey, this is also true for life! 🙂

 

In recent years, I’ve been fascinated by the mysteries and ideas associated with quantum physics and have drawn on them for inspiration.

 

My last novel, A Jack By Any Other Name, included a Faster-Than-Light drive that enabled Jack’s spaceship to travel across the universe in the blink of an eye. It was based on the spooky action-at-a-distance that Albert Einstein complained about when he discussed quantum physics. For fun, in Jack’s adventure some of these high improbabilities leak out of the spaceship and give him a sort of luck super power. As you can imagine this led to some interesting situations. It was so fun I thought it would be neat to explore this idea as the main premise of a book.

 

My new novel Conservation of Luck addresses the whole intriguing concept of luck. What exactly is luck? Is it chance? Fate? Some kind of force? Or is what we consider luck just coincidences? What if it could be transferred? What if it had to be conserved? It’s all very fascinating. I love addressing big-picture mysteries in a novel.

Once I decided on the premise, I had to decide on the main character. Who would have the most on the line in a book about luck? It was obvious: someone with a gambling problem. Imagine how difficult it would be to avoid gambling if you knew you would win…

 

When I read, I enjoy getting lost in the adventure. So, I try to write novels that are entertaining and engaging, with sympathetic characters in challenging situations. I like humor. I like romance. I like (spoiler alert) happy endings. So, I put all of that in my books.

Recently, I went to a workshop on author branding and we had to go through a bunch of exercises. My brand ended up being ‘Science Fiction with Heart.’ If you get a chance to check out Conservation of Luck, does that brand fit?

(Photo by  Patrick Campbell/University of Colorado)

Author Bio:

Lesley L. Smith has collected a plethora of degrees including a Ph.D. in Physics and a MFA in Writing Popular Fiction. She has published seven science fiction novels including The Quantum Cop, A Jack By Any Other Name, and her latest, Conservation of Luck. Her short science fiction has been published in several venues including Analog Science Fiction and Fact. She is an active member of the Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers of America and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She is also a founder and editor of the speculative fiction ezine Electric Spec.

She has had a variety of scientific jobs including investigating quarks, dark matter, extrasolar planets, clouds, atmospheric chemistry and global warming. She has worked for a variety of research institutions including the University of Kansas, Argonne National Laboratory, the Department of Energy, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, NASA, and the University of Colorado.

 

conservationofluck_cover

 

Short Book Blurb: Conservation of Luck

 

For every good fortune, there’s an equal and opposite misfortune.

As a brilliant young computer scientist working on her master’s degree, Ella Hote doesn’t believe in luck. But when bizarre accidents, insane coincidences, and weird encounters with improbably handsome strangers start to happen all around her, even hardheaded Ella has to change her mind.

She comes to realize she’s inadvertently created a luck generating computer that can make even the longest of long shots pay off.

Unfortunately, for every stroke of good luck, someone else pays the price in bad luck.

Ultimately, when lives are on the line, how far will she go?

 

Website link: http://www.lesleylsmith.com

Buy link: http://www.amazon.com/author/lesleylsmith

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House Keeping 11/14/17

As has become usual, I’m running a bit late this week. I do want to have my review up sometime tomorrow, probably tomorrow night but still. Realistically, it might wind up going up on Thursday.

This week’s book is one I’ve been looking forward to for close to a year, so that’s awesome. It’s the second in K. C. Alexander’s SINless series, Nanoshock.

I’ve also got a guest post going live on Friday courtesy of Lesley L. Smith, author of Conservation of Luck.

Immediate stuff aside, I also want to do something other than that one unboxing video with my you tube channel. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t have much cross posting with that over here because the standard free WordPress account doesn’t support video. It’s a think to think on and probably won’t come up until past the new year. But I do want to do something with that just because jumping into a new medium kind of excites me.

I’m also still trying to work out the logistics of doing the Bargain Bin Comics reviews. It isn’t so much a problem of finding bargain or clearance priced comics as that most of them are either later volumes or just all from the same place. Again, this is a thing I’ll probably try some time after the new year, since that’ll give me a little more time to figure out where I’m going with this.

That’s about all I have for now. Maybe something about my glorious six hundred words of NaNoWriMo writing. But that’s a thing for later.

If you enjoy what I’m doing here, buy me a coffee or leave a comment.

I am so late posting this. So late. Like, I was planning on having this up Wednesday and then work was so much more tiring than usual in the lead up to the store renovation.  This one is courtesy of the author, Michael Okon, this is Monsterland. Enjoy!

Monsterland cover

With zombies, werewolves, and vampires Monsterland promises to be the scariest place on Earth. It might also be the perfect place for Wyatt Baldwin and his friends to finally solve their debate about which is the best monster. Even better, they’ll get a chance to see it all on opening night, with full VIP invites after Wyatt shared a burger with the owner of the park, Vincent Konrad. A park full of monsters, what could possibly go wrong?

Monsterland by Michael Okon reads very much like a first book. There are a lot of good ideas and the frame work is solid but then there are bits that move too quickly. It has some interesting characters and others that don’t quite make it. So, some things work some don’t. That’s every book, and I should clarify, so let’s clarify.

The story for Monsterland is kind of ambitious. We’re started with the werewolves and shown that they didn’t join Monsterland on their own, then we get introduced to our protagonist and the world. It stars a pattern in the story, there’s a monster chapter and then a protagonist chapter. That works really well for me to a point. There’s a weird jump from the monsters as sort of victims of the part and planning to escape to the monsters as monster antagonists. That happens without a lot of build up and feels pretty disjointed. Something similar happens with Wyatt and his friends, they go from super excited about going to the park to thinking it was a bad idea and questioning if it was actually a good thing. Similarly again, we get Vincent jumping from being presented as a force for good to throwing out massive bad guy signals. I would have liked much more build up on all of these things. A slow burn and build and then reveal it. As it stands, while the end isn’t a twist or anything, it also isn’t super satisfying and could have benefited from just a touch more work.

The characters similarly could have benefited from more work. As it stands, they’re more or less sketches of characters rather than being fully realized. Wyatt is interested in zombies and Jade, the cute girl from school, he’s super about Victor Konrad’s plan to save the world with this theme park. His friend Melvin is super into werewolves and messes up his turns of phrase. The other friend is always addressed by his full name and is super smart, he’s afraid of the girl who’s into him. Then there’s background characters, I would have liked a fair deal more with them. It feels like Mr. Okom had a few ideas of what he wanted to work with characters wise, but wasn’t a hundred percent on how he wanted to implement them in the story proper.

I’ve said a fair amount about this needing a touch more work. Thing is, the book is average as it stands, but it has a lot of solid ideas. I liked the one friend’s love interest, Keisha, she had some really interesting moments and I would have really liked to see her do more. Vincent as the villain could have been really good if he was a little more subtle, he just gets a little too cartoony at the end for my taste. The monsters revolting could be built up a little more, show the vampires trying to get in contact with the werewolves. It would have been a fair number of little things, but it could have taken the book from average to good.

That’s pretty well where I’m left with Monsterland, it isn’t bad and it was enjoyable, but it is fairly average. I would read Michael Okon’s next book, and think he’s going to keep improving as a writer. That said, I’m giving Monsterland a three out of five.

Guest Post: Michael Okon

Hey all, I’ve got a guest post for you today. I’ve got a review for this author’s book coming up Wednesday, so that should be fun. Any way, from the very cool Michael Okon here’s a bit about monsters and books. Enjoy!

My All-Time Favorite Monster

 

My all-time favorite monster is…is…is I actually have no idea. Choosing a favorite monster is like choosing children, you simply can’t do it.  When the spark of my book Monsterland came to me, I called my brother immediately and told him, “I’m going to write a story about a theme park with zombies.” He replied with a quick, “No.” He said, “You have to tell a story about a theme park with werewolves, vampires, AND zombies.” I started writing that night.

 

What I learned about writing books, specifically about monsters, is not limiting yourself to one type of monster to scare the audience. Werewolves, vampires, and zombies. Having the three most globally recognized monsters in the world, all on display at a massive theme park. What could possibly go wrong?

 

How would the story had turned out if I would have chosen one monster? I honestly don’t know. What would happen if Led Zeppelin only released one song on an album? The results probably would have been disastrous.

 

As of now, Monsterland 2 is scheduled for a May 26, 2018 release. I have three, actually four monsters in that one, with other monsters being alluded too.  As for Monsterland 3 which I just started, there are three monsters named just in the first three chapters alone. What happens after that? Well, there are going to be more. Many more monsters in this interesting universe I’m creating.

 

But…if I had to choose one monster, just one superior monster to terrorize us lowly citizens, I would choose The Invisible Man.  I’m incorporating The Invisible Man in an upcoming Monsterland novel. I say this because watching the original classic with Claude Rains…well…I was terrified.  A zombie? Just shoot it. A vampire? Shine a light. A werewolf? They come out once a month and will fall with one little measly silver bullet.

 

But The Invisible Man is scary. A madman you cannot see. I’ve seen every classic horror movie, Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Blob, but nothing stayed with me like The Invisible Man.  I guess that falls in line with ghosts, but again, a ghost can’t touch you? Right? Only the invisible man can. I believe when a monster cannot be seen, well, that’s the scariest type of monster I can think. It’s a primal thing, a monster always lurking and watching, and you have absolutely no idea. 

 

Well, Jaws is really scary too. And Pennywise the clown is too. And Leatherface from…oh, nevermind. I can’t choose a favorite.

Head Games

I’m cutting it a little close to the wire here. I’d driven to visit my folks and spent a fair amount of time on the road today. It was fun and my car is once again fully functional, plus I got to see their new kitten. So, a win all around. This book is a bit of an odd one for me, it’s not my usual genre at all, but it was worth giving a shot. Thanks to the nice folks at First Second, this is Head Games. Enjoy!

Head Games cover

Novelist Hector Lassiter thought his adventure days were behind him. At least, he thought that until an old acquaintance lures him into one last run. He’s found Pancho Villa’s skull and a buyer, he just needs someone to get it to them. Money in the bank, easy as easy can be. At least until others get wind of the skull. Feds, frat boys, and soldiers of fortune are on Hector’s tail and the only folks he can count on are himself, a poet, and a woman hard as nails and twice as beautiful.

So, the Head Games graphic novel is an adaptation of Craig McDonald’s debut novel of the same title. It’s content is more than a little bit of a surprise, given that I’m used to more kid friendly graphic novels from this publisher. That threw me for a bit of a loop. The book very much not my usual thing. The lead character is very much a man losing his place in the world and becoming more aware of it day by day. This might be his last big adventure and he knows it. He knows that the world is changing without him and that he can’t, or won’t, keep up.

That’s actually part of the problem with the book. The protagonist, Hector Lassiter, spends so much time looking back to his glory days early on in the story that, while I’m interested in those stories, I don’t really care what’s going on in the actual plot. The action is tied too much to Lassiter’s past and his adventures in his youth. That’s where most of the characters who are after the skull come from, they’re people he knew from his army days or folks who have been hired by those people. I would have liked for there to have been more characters who weren’t connected to him or, failing that, if the protagonist had been Bud, the poet side character. I could have also done without the second and third parts included, combined they’re about half the size of part one and they don’t really add much to the story proper.

This is the part where I admit that my problems with the book are probably more due to the nature of it being a graphic novel adaptation of a novel rather than an original comic. Some connective tissue and character details were probably cut to make it flow better. For what it is, the writing is pretty solid even as it’s not exactly my thing.

The art fits really well with the plot. It’s blocked out with a lot of heavy shadows and sparse color. The character design is also solid, the characters are distinct and the backgrounds are detailed without distracting from what’s going on.

At the end of the day, Head Games isn’t really my kind of story. There isn’t much of anything wrong with the writing, and very little that couldn’t be attributed to it being an adaptation. It’s a first book as well, so others in the series could easily have less of the looking backward. I would probably be willing to read one of them. So, given that, I give it a three out of five.

So, Halloween did not go to plan. I’m sorry for that, I bit off more than I could chew this year. That just tells me that I need to plan better for next time.

I do plan on reviewing the last three books in The Essential World of Darkness. That’s mostly a curiosity thing, they can’t all be terrible. No guarantee on when they’ll show up, though I’ll probably post them as a second review during normal weeks rather than as the review of the week.

Heading into November, NaNoWriMo is happening again. I’m not sure what to do with that, though I am giving it another shot. I have rambling bits of story started and a vague idea for a start and an end point. Fun times that.

Also, a review will be up later today. Schedule slip is happening again, so I need to fix that.

As ever, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to comment or you can buy me a coffee.

So, I’m behind on this whole Halloween thing. I’d blame work and all the other usual things, but it isn’t any of that. It’s this book, this one that I’m reviewing now. I nearly quit. But I kept going and I’m going to keep going.

The Essential World of Darkness cover

The truest enemy of the Garou is the Wyrm, corruption and pollution incarnate. Its spawn hunt the Garou and contaminate Gaia, bringing darkness and filth to the world. Once there were guardians to keep the Wyrm trapped on its side of the Gauntlet and away from the physical world. Once, but that was a long time ago. Now there’s little more than fragments left, the Great Wolf was shattered and one of its fangs lost, the other guarded by an orphaned werewolf who is little more than a child. If she can’t find the lost fang before the moon is full then the Wyrm and all its horrors will invade our world.

Owl Goingback’s Shaman Moon is the second book in The Essential World of Darkness. In a lot of ways I feel like there isn’t really a good way for me to review this one. This book and I started out on the wrong foot. The bulk of the first chapter covers the main character’s tragic back story in a California orphanage, and this section very nearly made me stop reading the book. We’re talking less than five pages in and I was considering quitting. Because of that, this is going to get kind of spoilery.

Let’s start with the bit that I nearly quit the book because of, because the beginning is always a good place to start. See, our character was found in a dumpster near her parents’ murdered bodies and never felt like she belonged in any of the foster homes she wound up in, so she ran away a lot. This wound her up in an orphanage of nightmares run by a woman the kids referred to as the “Iron Maiden”, a woman who only smiled when she was beating one of the girls under her care with a riding crop while calling them terrible names. This woman has a goon squad of older girls who beat the younger girls until they have broken bones and need hospitalization. They don’t get that though, because hospitals would ask questions, no the only medical treatment the girls at the orphanage get is from an elderly pedophile. It goes on and on. The main character makes one friend who, to avoid getting beaten by the goon squad for smoking stolen cigarettes, kisses her and flirts a tiny bit once. Because of this, best friend character is raped by the Iron Maiden and murdered.  Keep in mind, none of this echoes down into the plot itself, our heroine thinks back to the orphanage maybe twice and both times could have been replaced with almost anything.

In addition to the juvenile ideas of what constitutes dark, the writing in Shaman Moon is less than stellar. There are long bits of out of place exposition and clunky bits of environmental statistics. It leads me to wondering just who this was written for. A fan of the Werewolf: the Apocalypse game would already know a lot of the exposition while someone just looking for a werewolf story would get tired of it pretty quickly and look for another book. There’s big repeated bits that keep covering the same ideas, everything is the Wyrm, details about werewolves’ forms, non-werewolves are at best oblivious to the damage they’re doing the planet, this one type of werewolf is bad. It’s stuff that could have been worked in a lot better or glossed over and left to the reader to understand. Left as it is, it feels like Goingback needed to fill his hundred or so pages but only had forty pages of story.

The environmental stuff gets similarly tiresome, there’s only so much statistics I want to deal with in my fiction reading especially when it’s just shoved in there. Yes, pollution is an aspect of the Wyrm, the werewolves one true enemy, but that doesn’t mean that I need statistics about how it’s expected to affect nature in the coming years. It, again, feels like padding and breaks the flow of the story utterly.

I actually don’t have anything good to say about this one. There were ideas there that could have been solid, but they were covered up in padding and bad writing. At the end of the day and idea doesn’t mean much if nothing gets done with it. Shaman Moon gets a one out of five.

Ahhhhh, I got this thing read and reviewed in less than a day. I feel wired. So this is the first book in The Essential World of Darkness and seems to be one of the few to have received a print run prior to the omnibus. We’re starting Halloween off with vampires. Enjoy!

Vampire Diary The Embrace cover

Auston Jacobson is many things. A runaway, a pastor’s son, a bartender, but he’s no monster. Not even with the horrible dreams he’s been having lately. The hunting dreams that he remembers so clearly. The ones where he wakes up sweating and aching. He only started the diary because Danya, the cute girl who comes to the bar a lot, suggested it. It gives them something to talk about. But it’s scaring him more and more.

Vampire Diary: The Embrace was written by Robert Weinberg and Mark Rein-Hagen with art by Daniel Thron and Chris Elliott. This book was hard to read, literally difficult to make out what the words on the page said, hard to read. Vampire Diary: The Embrace is the story of a young man coming into his own and then losing it all to something far more dangerous than he could have imagined. The concept and story are both pretty simple and interesting in their own right. I like the idea of a diary style book from the view point of someone being stalked by a vampire, it’s interesting.

Interesting is really the only thing this book really has going for it. The story has a lot of potential, but the writing is really basic and can get super overblown. It gets so bad that it’s funny at points. The concept is solid and it is definitely the kind of thing I would keep in character for a Vampire game, but it doesn’t totally work here because of the protagonist. He’s too much, nothing is just a thing, everything is big and probably leads back to his dad and how bad his dad treated him. The parts with Danya were pretty solid though, mostly because those bits were love song overblown rather than teenage sad poetry overblown.

My big issue with this book is its presentation. The combination of art and text is reminiscent of the blurbs in the World of Darkness source books. It’s super messy though, with art overlaid with text and pages where the lay out breaks the flow and really should have been done better. More thought to how this would affect the reader’s ability to enjoy the story would have been fantastic. Though, part of the layout issues might be that I’m reading a later reprinting rather than the original printing of the book. There are pages here that hurt my eyes to try and decipher with the art and text laid over each other.

I feel like this book would have been a lot better if the art had been more separated from the text. The pages where art covered the text itself hurt my eyes to try and read, thought those pages were also some of the most overblown bits so they may have been meant to be skipped. I’m not entirely sure. I’ve said it a lot but, while there’s a lot of potential to this, the book isn’t good. I’m giving it a two out of five.

I am in fact posting this a couple days late. The comic shop didn’t get their delivery until yesterday and then my car died and I kind of couldn’t write because stress. But that’s all cleared up now and I’ve got words for you all. Not a ton, because I’m still getting used to writing about comics, but words. This is part one of What Dreams May Come. Enjoy!

Issue 1 What Dreams May Come pt 1. cover

The ladies have saved the world, been to another dimension, and now they’re finally back home and ready to get back down to business. Unfortunately, while out on a routine bust something comes home with them. Something hungry and dangerous.

I’ve been waiting for this comic for literal months. This is the comic that I got a pull list again for. Does it stand up to my excitement? Yes, yes it does. But that is hardly a review and I really want to talk about this comic. So, here’s Ghostbusters: Answer the Call issue one.

Monthly comic books have always been somewhat difficult for me to review. Given that, by nature, they tend to be short and light on story content. That’s one of the points that issue one does really well for me, Kelly Thompson’s writing does a really good job of both capturing the characters and playing them off each other, something that a new reader or someone who hadn’t seen the movie would need. She also does a fantastic job of setting up the story, giving us plenty of build for our antagonist and an awesome lead in to the rest of the “What Dreams May Come” arc.

The writing is bolstered by Corin Howell’s art, which is emotive and fits the characters really well. There’s also some seriously great atmospheric bits that are improved greatly by Valentina Pinto’s work on the colors. This is seriously one of my favorite comics in a long time for visuals.

This comic leaves me bouncing with excitement, seriously literally bouncing. If you’re a fan of the 2016 movie, you’re going to enjoy this. If you aren’t a fan but enjoy comics, it’s definitely worth checking out. I’m giving it a five out of five, let’s see what next month brings.

I’m super late with the review this week. This is unfortunate and I am sorry. It’s been a rough week and I’m having to deal with the side effects of plans not landing quite right.

That said, Halloween is still happening and I am still super excited to share this year’s run of Halloween reviews. So, where am I going with this? Last year’s run of reviews were all about nostalgia for me, the trilogy that made baby me quit mid-book out of fear.

How do I match up to that this year? This year I’m jumping into the World of Darkness. Well, more so than I already have. See, World of Darkness is a table top rpg set in a world very like our own, except the things that go bump in the night are very real and it would be very dangerous for a normal human to run into one of them. Depending on which rule books you’re using the player could be anything from a vanilla human stumbling into this hidden world and subsequently trying to dig deeper or escape it to one of the things that make the dark dangerous. Be a werewolf, or a vampire, or an embodiment of primordial nightmares, if you’re willing to do a little digging you can even be a hunter. Ultimately though, whatever you are, the challenge is to find what’s going on and to survive long enough to try and impact it.

At least that’s how it plays for my game group.

Given how much I enjoy the game and that I’d seen a few novels while looking for more source books, I figured I’d check them out. So, that’s what we’re doing for Halloween.

Given that the books I could find were pretty scattered, I’m going to be covering the ones available in The Essential World of Darkness omnibus.  These are also all based on the old World of Darkness source books, so some of the things covered may be unfamiliar for me. That’s all part of the fun though.

That’s about it for right now. If you like what I’m doing, you can buy me a coffee or leave a comment. Enjoy!