Archive for August, 2018


Hey all, I’ve got something awesome for you today thanks to Patrick Canning. This is the first chapter of his novel Cryptofauna. I’ve got most of the chapter under a cut for space, but this one is a lot of fun, so enjoy!

Cryptofauna cover

1

St. Militrude’s

Jim grabbed a can of root beer for his suicide. He wasn’t particularly big on sassafras or licorice, but drink choices were limited. The tap water at St. Militrude’s Home for the Insane and Elderly was notorious for its eggy flavor. Mellow Yellow was tasty, but the potassium citrate was known to have undesirable drug interactions. Coke was the obvious front runner, except one of the residents had recently thrown every last can of it off the roof in protest of an earlier bed time.

 The conciliatory can of root beer jostled with the rest of the supplies on Jim’s janitorial cart as he pushed it down St. Mili’s labyrinth of hallways, mercifully quiet during the small hours. A jacket was the next item on the grisly scavenger hunt, because nobody wanted to die cold.

Perhaps surprising to some, a bleak occupation in a bleak setting wasn’t the catalyst behind Jim’s decision to end his life. He wasn’t bitter or depressed; he wasn’t heartbroken or mad at the government. Jim had simply made the classic mistake of thinking about it all too much. He’d always been of the suspicion that if one gave it too much thought, it being the why of it all, those thoughts would inevitably lead to suicide, or at least an absence of reasons not to do it. He’d gone in search of meaning and come up short, and this was pro-level stuff he was contemplating. The defeated janitor would’ve done well to stick to simpler, less fatal issues like why the bee makes honey or why yellow traffic lights were curiously but definitely getting shorter.

Jim trudged into the depths of the coatroom, battling a standoffish daddy long legs for nearly a minute before emerging with his white winter parka. He laid the poofy-bag-ofmarshmallows jacket atop the root beer, and pushed his cart to the last stop: the pharmacy.

Because of his plentiful experience with cleaning up other people’s messes and an affinity for his boss, Nurse Gail, Jim had elected to go by pill overdose. It was clean, quiet, and showed respect for the party that was to discover the body.

With an extensive roster of patients in desperate need of daily medication, St. Mili’s pharmacy was a Mecca of dozens of drugs that, when taken in excess, resulted in reliable death. Jim unlocked the mother of all medicine cabinets, perused its dizzying supply of amber bottles, and plucked the relatively obscure and verbally intimidating dikatharide olanzapine. Conventionally used to combat the dreaded tag team of paranoia and psychosis, the drug didn’t cause nausea (again, he really wanted this to be an easy clean up) and with its high levels of liver-busting haloperidol, a successful overdose was all but guaranteed.

Jim parked the supply cart in front of his bedroom door, sandwiched between the king-of ambient-noise boiler room and a storage closet that no one used because a) the door was jammed, and b) it smelled like a wet dog chewing black licorice.

Inside his bedroom at last, Jim locked the door and set the lamp on dim, considering. He sat cross-legged in the center bouquet of his flower-patterned rug, donned his marshmallow jacket, and opened his forced compromise can of root beer. The angry sound of freed carbonation joined a faint rendition of “O Canada” from a dementia-plagued geriatric on the floor above.

Making what he assumed would be his last choice, Jim decided to put liquid in before pills as opposed to the other way around (a traditionally benign but of course hotly-debated topic among the unpredictably opinionated residents of St. Mili’s). He sipped some root beer, and lifted the pills to their manufacturer-unapproved destiny. It was at this moment, in a statistically improbable stroke of luck, that the knob of Jim’s locked door quivered.
Continue reading

Advertisements

House Keeping 8/28/18

I mentioned moving this to Thursday last week. I think I still want to do that at some point, but before that I want to figure something out for an early week post. Also, things remain a little hectic so I kind of want to keep this anchored a little until I have a better grasp on things.

That said, I’ve got  a couple of guest posts coming up for you all. Always fun to see what gets authors started.

Still planning on reviewing the Second Star Books boxes from this month and last month. I’ve fallen a bit by the wayside with those, but I’m still excited to dig in and talk about what gets packed in with them. I think this month’s might have been the most thematically solid yet.

I’m still behind on reviewing stuff, catching up is super slow because I want to read half of everything I come across. I should have a little time to get more caught up on the writing some time soon. The reading itself has yet to be a problem.

That’s about it I think. Standard stuff, If you like what I’m doing you can comment or hit the like button. Shouting at the void is entertaining, but it would be awesome to see if any of you have thoughts on any of the books here. And, of course, if you really like what I’m doing here you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. Anything from that will be going towards a replacement video camera for attempts at unboxings and/or video ramblings. Also, I am more proud of myself than I should be for spelling caffeine right on the first try. Have a great week!

Late again. Sorry all, things have been sort of running in all directions and I feel like I can’t catch up. That aside, this is the first in a series that I’m going to be reviewing the entirety of thanks to the awesome folks at Curiosity Quills Press. Here is Richard Roberts’ Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain. Enjoy!

Please Dont Tell My Parents Im a Super Villan cover

Penelope Akk wants to be a hero like her parents. She knows her power will activate any day now and she’s more than ready to prove herself. When it hits like a lightning bolt of inspiration and leaves her with a new tool that is more than amazing, she’s on her way to greatness. At least, she thinks she is until a confrontation with a hero’s sidekick leaves her and her friends labeled villains. Turns out that no matter how much she wants to be a hero, Penny Akk is really good at being a super villain and her friends aren’t all too ready to talk her out of it. Might as well have fun while it lasts, right?

Richard Robert’s Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain is something of an odd duck of a novel. There’s this whole world built up with heroes and villains and powers. There were aliens that invaded awhile back, but no one’s seen them in forever. Then we have the protagonists sort of getting dropped into all of this. They’re all varying degrees of familiar with the world’s heroes and villains, Penny because of her parents and Clair and Ray due to being into the fandoms, but this is the first time they’re in the middle of it all. It’s odd but easy to go along with.

This book was a lot of fun in a way that I haven’t seen in a while. There’s this massive element of embraced silliness that comes with the whole super villain deal, largely because we’re seeing them as people interacting with, essentially, comrades rather than just antagonists. The little mistakes that Penny makes when telling the Machine to do certain things because she simply hadn’t thought of them are great. They’re a sort of growing pains for a villainous mastermind in training deal. The bits with Clair just goofing around in her bear suit or geeking out about various heroes and villains with Ray do a great job of keeping the tone light and fun.

The various villains that the team winds up rubbing shoulders with are likewise really entertaining. A special focus is given to the other mad scientists, who each have their own particular theme or type of tech that they specialize in, but it winds up being a bit like seeing all the members of this one club grouped up. They rib each other and joke around about their various inventions and how they work. There’s this fantastic character, Apparition, who I feel like I would read a book about on her own. Another character Lucyfar feels like she could also be a favorite of mine later on in the series. Plus, the villains take the protagonists seriously and treat them like they know what they’re doing. The heroes don’t, which feels a little weird all said.

There are a handful of places where it feels like the team winds up doing villainous things because the plot demands it rather than because it fits entirely with what’s going on with the characters. I also found myself wishing that more was done with Miss A, the sidekick who kicks off the Inscrutable Machine’s villainy, because she felt like she could have been such a fantastic antagonist for them. In addition to that, her whole plan to flush out the children of super villains that she’s convinced are at her school is terribly irresponsible and breaks with the idea of not making it personal that’s sort of threaded through a lot of the discussion of hero/villain dynamics. She’s pretty implicitly breaking the understood rules with that and I want to see something come of it.

That said, there’s time for something to come of it, and I’m interested in seeing what comes next. There’s a lot of promise to the world here and Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain gives really good bones for the series to come. It earns a four out of five and I’m going to be coming back to this series later on.

Guest Post: A.M.Bochnack

As mentioned earlier in the week, I’ve got a guest post for you all today from A. M. Bochnack. She’ll be talking about what lead her to writing Fortitude Rising. I rather enjoyed reading this and I hope you do as well. Enjoy!

The Lifeline of Writing

For me, writing is a vital lifeline. Without it, I would not survive. Without it, I would not exist. It’s something I’ve been doing since I was a little girl. Long before I ever had a clue how to formulate a sentence or structure a book, I was imagining far off worlds and amazing characters that would show up at my doorstep any minute and save me from my reality.

By the time I hit middle school, I was writing poems and short stories. I wrote a new poem almost weekly, practicing my rhyming and letting my emotions lead me through each stanza. I made up new characters all the time and imagined where I would take them and what magical abilities they would possess.

And then something unspeakable happened. I listened to an adult. By this point, I was in high school and it was time to think about college. I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up and, of course, I said an author. The same adult laughed at me and told me I had to reconsider. Aspiring authors were rarely successful, they said, and I would most likely starve for the rest of my life. I was devastated, and heart broken. Writing was all I ever thought about. I didn’t have anything else and I didn’t want to do anything else with my life.

Struggling for an answer to adulthood and college, my favorite teacher told me I excelled at science and encouraged me to pursue a career in science instead. So, I put away my pen and paper and headed down a new path.

For over twenty years I didn’t write a creative word. Nothing. Not a single story or poem. Instead I was a scientist and I told myself repeatedly that I did not have a creative bone in my body. Nope, it was all facts backed by data in my new life.

This held me over for a while. I was content working hard, making a name for myself in my field. I equally love science and the pursuit for knowledge. It was (or is, I should say) a great fit for me. But every time I finished reading a book, my days of dreaming up characters would seep to the surface of my mind and I would think about writing again. These characters nagged at me, forced me to think about them and create worlds for them to live in. I would make random notes to myself in the form of journal entries but that was the limit. I wasn’t creative, I couldn’t write. I was a scientist.

The more the characters nagged at me, the less content I was with my life and career. I tried to ignore them, but they were persistent. It took me several years before I finally decided to act on it. In early 2015, I bought a few books on how to structure a novel and my life began again. The thing is, nothing in life is easy. No career choice will result in an instant success. I didn’t wake up one day a successful scientist, I had to work at for over ten years before I achieved the level of success I was looking for. Some choices may take longer than others to achieve the same level of success as another, but success is always possible if you’re willing to do the work required.

I sometimes let myself wander down the dangerous path of what if’s. What if I never listened to that adult and I pursued writing instead of science? What if I had a degree in English literature instead of environmental sciences? What if… what if… what if… Would I have been a successful author a decade ago? These are dangerous questions that will never do me any good, so I must let it go.

The beautiful thing about life is, it’s never too late to try something new. As long as we’re breathing, we should be trying! I published my first novel, Fortitude Rising, earlier this year at the age of forty-three. Twenty years later than I planned on when I was a little girl. I could focus on the fact that it took me so long to do it, but I’m not. What’s important is that I finally allowed myself to be true to me and I did it!

If you too have been dreaming up characters and thinking you want to write a novel or short story, my advice to you is to stop thinking and start doing. I’m still a scientist, but I’m also a published author and it feels amazing! Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And there’s a lot to be gained by following your dreams.

 

amkbochnak_17

Author Bio:

A.M. Bochnak is a dreamer. With her head in the clouds or her eyes turned to the stars, she spends countless hours imagining new adventures and far off worlds for which to travel. When she isn’t dreaming, she writes science fiction and fantasy with her focus on epic fantasies, apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. Fortitude Rising, a sci-fi dystopian fantasy, is her first published novel. She is an American author, born and raised in southern Ohio and now lives in Gainesville, Florida. www.ambochnak.com

 

038-6x9-Paperback-Upright-Front-Back-COVERVAULT

Debut Novel: Fortitude Rising, Volume One of the Magical Bond Series

Ebony Hunter has spent her entire life isolated on an island institution run by her father, Dr. Daniel Hunter. When Connor Vance and his group of outsiders are brought to the institution, they cause her to question everything her father has ever told her about the world. But who’s telling her the truth? Her father or the outsiders?

Just when she starts to open up to Connor Vance, he admits that he and his companions are on a mission to kill her and her life-long friends. Connor’s mission to kill her is halted when he realizes Ebony is a pawn, albeit a powerful pawn, in her father’s game. They must join forces and work together if they ever hope to escape the clutches of the true enemy, Dr. Hunter and Vivian Way, a political reformist.

To find the truth, and hopefully earn her freedom, Ebony must overcome her fears and embrace her magical powers. Her life depends on the trust of people she hardly knows as the battle for control of her powerful magic escalates between her and her father.

Through her journey of self-discovery, she finds friendship, love, and a strength she never knew she possessed. Everyone around her is taking sides in the struggle for power, and the lives of everyone she cares about are on the line as the tension rises in this sci-fi dystopian fantasy. Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DCF1XCP

House Keeping 8/21/18

Things are a bit chaotic lately. I’m rolling with it, but some times it feels like I can’t get my feet back under me. Lot’s of plans percolating for the future and not a ton I can do just yet to actively prepare for them just yet. It’ll be awesome though.

Fun stuff though. I’ve got a guest post for you all coming up on Friday for A. M. Bochnak’s first Fortitude Rising novel. It covers a bit of her path to being an author.

On another subject entirely, I’m thinking of moving this to later in the week in the near future. Just at the moment I feel like I’m saying the same thing, more or less, every week. It would probably be the same if I did this on Thursday or something, but at least then I’d be reacting to the week rather than just throwing out projections on what I was planning/hoping to accomplish. That would sort of result in my announcing anything that was going to be important either as its own thing apart from this or a week or more in advance. Neither of which seems like a terrible thing.

As usual, I’m planning on having the review up tomorrow. That said, we’ve seen how that’s turned out the last couple of weeks. There shouldn’t be any problem and I think I’ve got it in hand, so fingers crossed there.

Standard stuff. If you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. Telling me that you like something lets me know to keep an eye out for more opportunities to work it in. And, of course, if you really like what I’m doing you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. Any money from that is currently going towards buying a replacement video camera to get the ball rolling on box opening stuff and videos just talking about books or genre stuff. In any case, have great rest of the week!

 

Well, this isn’t when I intended to post this. Life kind of ate my ability to get this one polished up for Friday, which is unfortunate. Having finished the series and written reviews for all three books, I find myself kind of wanting to do a spoiler-y overview of the whole deal. Talk about the things I enjoyed more in depth and bring up a few of the places that I think it could have been stronger overall. That might be a project for later. In any case, here’s Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Fourth Closet by Scott Cawthon and Kira Breed-Wrisley. Enjoy!

FNaF The Fourth Closet cover

The past isn’t easy to escape. Charlie died, John was there when it happened, but a woman with her face showed up at the dinner days later. He’s certain it wasn’t her no matter how the rest of their friends insist. Some things aren’t meant to be forgotten. There’s a new pizzeria in Hurricane, Circus Baby’s Pizza. Kids are disappearing again. Just like ten years ago. Strange things are happening, Charlie isn’t herself and nothing she’s doing or saying adds up. Jessica doesn’t want to believe John, but what if he’s right? Carlton, Jessica, Marla, and John have a few more answers to find if they want to lay the past to rest.

I have mixed feelings on this one. Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Fourth Closet is meant to be the final book in the trilogy started back in The Sliver Eyes. There are a number of good moments here, places where things just click and they work really well. But clunky scenes and spots where things just don’t feel solid are also interspersed throughout. There’s been this B movie feel to the books so far. Things haven’t needed to makes absolute sense because it’s been fun enough to make up for it, there’s only so serious you can get with haunted animatronics after all. The Fourth Closet tries to be a more dramatic book, so a lot of the B movie vibes don’t carry as well.

Part of this is down to how rushed the various story lines can feel. We go from the question of if the new woman was Charlie to the reveal of her being an antagonist in what feels like no time at all. There’s a lot early on of John’s life falling apart due after Charlie’s death that drags on for a couple chapters, but doesn’t really do anything once the story gets rolling. There’s a lot that feels like it should have been introduced earlier and allowed to build longer for better impact. A lot of things feel like they should have been given more weight within the story but where cut short to rush on to the next thing.

That’s sort of the major thing for me on this one. When The Fourth Closet lets characters be the focus within the plot it can work really, really well. There’s a bit where resident fashion girl, Jessica, is trapped by the antagonists and has to keep safe and try and figure out what they’re doing. The reader gets to see her forcing herself to think on other things to stay calm, we get to see her being competent and focused. Her confrontation with one of the animatronics is one of my favorite parts of the book. Another character, Carlton, gets a lot of really good lines that reflect his previous funny man characterization. But then he also gets a really nice character arc that picks up his feelings of having failed his best friend from The Silver Eyes. Even Charlie and Circus Baby get a couple of nice moments, though I wish there had been more lead up to those moments.

I do feel like John was the major weak point in the character work though. Any empathy for Circus Baby sort of hinges on the reader being familiar with her from the games’ lore, she really needed that lead up as more than just another monster. But that’s sort of expected at this point, the Five Nights at Freddy’s novels are an alternate universe to the games but still pull heavily from them. John doesn’t really have that excuse. He’s billed as the protagonist of this novel, but then he doesn’t really do anything that any of the other characters couldn’t have. Most of what he does do is bone headed and could have been easily worked around. He’s the not love interest who seems desperate to be in love with the idea of Charlie rather than the character herself. The other characters have their own lives going on outside of the plot, things that happen outside of undead murderers and possessed robots. John doesn’t have that and is a much weaker character for it. He needed something outside of his feelings regarding Charlie to work.

I feel like that’s as far as I can go without delving into major spoilers. In a lot of ways, I feel like The Fourth Closet should have been broken up into two books and more time given to both the new batch of missing kids and Charlie and not Charlie. It’s very wanting in more room to spread out and show the best of itself. There are some legitimately tense scenes here that I really enjoyed. There are some emotional scenes that are good, but that could have been so much more if only we had more time to process them. There’s the big reveal that could have been so awesome, if it had been built up better or if characters were given time to react to it and themselves process it. It’s fun, but flawed in serious ways, which nets Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Fourth Closet a three out of five. I’d revisit this series again if another book was released.

So, I’m running super late this week. I’ve been sick for a good chunk of it, admittedly, but that’s still no good. I swear, we’re getting fall pollen and summer heat around here.

I should have a review for you all tomorrow. It’s about half way done now, so it’s just a matter of figuring out what I’m actually trying to say with it, getting that down, and polishing it a bit. Nothing big. Right?

That aside, I’m really excited to have won an advance copy of Amy Rose Capetta’s The Brilliant Death through BookishFirst. So that’s a review that’s going to be headed your way in the near future. I’ve read the first few chapters and look forward to seeing where it goes from there.

Beyond that, I’ve got something coming up next month that should be entertaining. A couple of things that should be entertaining if I play it right. That’s for then, though I’m hoping to pull some fun into what’s left of this month too.

Standard closer. If you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. I thrive on encouragement. And, of course, if you really like what I’m doing you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. Anything from the ko-fi fund is currently going towards a replacement video camera so that I can try getting the ball rolling on video ideas. In any case, have a great rest of the week!

This one was a bit difficult to get written. I enjoyed it a great deal, but didn’t have a ton to say about it. That said, this one’s thanks to the awesome folks at First Second. Here’s Hope Larson’s All Summer Long. Enjoy!

All Summer Long cover

Bina and Austin have been friends forever and with summer vacation starting she’s excited to get started on their yearly Summer Fun Index. At least, she’s excited until finding out he’s headed to soccer camp instead. There’s a waiting list and he’s super excited, but that leaves Bina alone for a month with nothing to do. She practices her guitar and watches way too much tv, but the summer doesn’t really get started until she finds herself hanging out with Austin’s older sister Charlie. When Austin comes home, he’s acting weird and distant and embarrassed. They’ve been friends forever, but are Bina and Austin growing apart or just growing up?

All Summer Long is an interesting slice of life, a school summer vacation from the middle of middle school. The time where things start changing super quickly and the people you’ve always known start growing into new versions of themselves. It’s a nifty coming of age story with a focus on music that makes me want to look up the bands mentioned.

All Summer Long is comparatively short, hitting the high notes of the summer rather than the entirety of it. Though, in a lot of ways that feels a lot like my memories of summer vacation. Bina’s friends are all away, her best friend isn’t texting her back, and her parents want her to do homework instead of watching tv. She’s in for a boring one until she starts hanging out with Charlie and listening to the Steep Street album Austin lent her before he left. She’s got family stuff happening, but happy family stuff, with her older brother and his husband adopting a baby. It’s coming of age stuff, and most of it’s cute. The parts that aren’t are the kind of arguments that come from growing pains, for all the characters involved.

I don’t have much more to say about this one. I enjoyed it a lot and, like a lot of First Second books, think it would be a great fit for a middle school library. Hope Larson did really good work here, this is something I’ve read multiple times leading up to reviewing it. I give All Summer Long a five out of five.

House Keeping 8/7/18

So, there’s not really a lot for me to talk about here this week. Knock on wood, but work stuff has slowed down a little, so I’m not just coming home ready to pass out or ignore everything.

Review is coming up tomorrow. I’m still planning on having the Second Star July box review up some time soon, hopefully later in the week. I kind of fumbled that one last week, but I still want to talk about it.

As to anything else, I’ve got a couple reviews that I need to finish that I’m hoping to get out soon. I’m stalled out on both of them because I’ve got a fair amount to say about both, but one I’m not sure where to start with one and the other I’m trying to dodge spoilers on. That second one leaves me with not a lot to talk about, it’s got me going in circles.

Standard stuff. If you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. Tell me of your bookish feelings. And, of course, if you really like what I’m doing, you can feed my caffeine habit and buy me a ko-fi. A generous individual did so here recently, so now I’m on my way to that replacement video camera. Either way, have a great day and enjoy what’s left of the summer.

Guest Post: D. S. Smith

Alright, I’ve mentioned this blog tour before, but today’s the day my post goes live. This one’s about the inspiration behind Unparalleled. Enjoy!

Unparalleled coverThe inspiration for writing Unparalleled came to me during a visit to the zoo. I had been toying with the idea of writing a science fiction novel after reading other works in this genre. I was especially impressed by Michael Crichton’s novel, Timeline. In this story, a group of scientists are sent back in time to medieval France.

 

I loved the way Crichton crafted this story, using a combination science and technology with history and malevolence to create a gripping tale of conflict and wonder. As I strolled around the zoo, head buzzing with ideas for a tale of my own, I came across the tiger enclosure. A group of people gathered at the fence watching a keeper throw meat to one of the animals. The tiger did not seem interested in the scraps being thrown, but it did seem very interested in the source of food.

 

I marveled at the fact that the keeper and the tiger were only separated by a chain fence and a moat circling the enclosure. I imagined the carnage that would take place if the fence were to suddenly disappear, or what would happen if someone was dragged from the past, like a character from Timeline, materializing at the other side of the fence, face to face with one of these magnificent yet lethal beasts. The idea for a story started to take form and that night I wrote the prologue for Unparalleled.

 

Unfortunately, life got in the way of writing and the first few hand written pages of what was to become my first published novel were shoved into a shoebox and stored in the loft.

 

Ten years past before the creative juices started to flow again and the story progressed beyond the prologue. I had just finished reading ‘The Time Travelers Wife’ by Audrey Niffenegger. I enjoyed the way she used science fiction to create a love story with a modern day twist of Shakespearian conflict. I decided to use a similar method, not so much to create a love story but to try to place every day characters with real emotions into extraordinary situations. Situations that make them question everything they have ever understood about their existence and the world they live in.

 

Unparalleled is as much about the human condition as it is about the science fiction. It turned out to be a very different story to the one I thought of all those years ago. The whole novel stems from the original prologue which gained its own momentum as one idea lead to another. I hope the pace of the novel keeps the reader interested while the underlying plot, based on real science, leaves them wondering, what if…….

DSSmith Author pic

You can find Unparalleled here or here.