Saturday, August 23, 2014

Mailboxes, Shelves, and What I'm Reading

Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.

Two new arrivals this week - the first a December sci-fi release, and the second a long-awaited indie follow-up.



The Fortress in Orion by Mike Resnick
Expected publication: December 2nd 2014 by Pyr

The Democracy is at war with the alien Traanskei Coalition. War hero Colonel Nathan Pretorius has a record of success on dangerous behind-enemy-lines missions, missions that usually leave him in the hospital. Now he's recruited for a near-impossible assignment that may well leave him dead.

At the cost of many lives, the Democracy has managed to clone and train General Michkag, one of the Traanskei's master strategists. Colonel Pretorius and a hand-picked team must kidnap the real Michkag if they can, assassinate him if they can't, but no matter which, put the clone in his place, where he will misdirect the enemy's forces and funnel vital information to the Democracy.

Against the odds, Pretorius, along with Cyborg Felix Ortega, computer expert Toni Levi, convict and contortionist Sally "Snake" Kowalski, the near-human empath Marlowe, the alien Gzychurlyx, and Madam Methuselah - the Dead Enders - must infiltrate the Fortress in Orion, accomplish their mission, and escape with their lives.




Spawn of Dyscrasia by S.E. Lindberg
Published July 28th 2014 by IGNIS Publishing LLC

Sharon died serving the undead. Will you take her place?

Dyscrasia Fiction™ explores the choices humans and their gods make as a disease corrupts their souls, shared blood, and creative energies.

Spawn of Dyscrasia follows Helen’s abrupt promotion from neophyte curer to Lord Echo’s personal healer, replacing her friend who died mysteriously. She struggles to keep Echo alive as contagious phantoms corrupt his soul. While Lord Lysis fights a sudden invasion from a grotesque army, Helen’s humanity is tested to its limits: she contacts the original source of dyscrasia, and emerges transformed…

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

With a bit of a breather between scheduled release date reviews, thanks in large part to my vacation, I've been dabbling in several titles. I suspect a DNF shelf update will be coming soon, especially given my ghost tour commitments over the new 2 months, but there are the 2 that have hooked me:

The Valhalla Prophecy: A Novel by Andy McDermott
I've been curious about the archaeological adventures of Nina Wilde & Eddie Chase, and so far I'm thoroughly enjoying my first literary encounter.

It Waits Below by Eric Red
A sunken 19th centure treasure ship, a salvage operation, an alien lifeform, and modern day pirates - sounds like fun!


What's topping your shelves this week?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Cliffhangers – It’s All About the Foreplay (Guest Post)

The China Dogs photo ChinaDog_zps25183abf.jpg

Cliffhangers – it’s all about the foreplay

I hate it when chapters just fizzle out on you. When they’re so tired of running through the story that they just give up and fall sagging to a full stop, lie breathless on a patch of clean type space and await the big number of a new chapter that heralds a fresh go at keeping your attention.

But what I hate more than a damp squib ending, a busted bridge into the next part of the adventure, are really weak opening lines of a story. Oh man, it’s such a disappointment.  You look at the glossy cover, the great title, the snazzy graphics that enticed you in, and there, right at the start of Chapter One is the crappiest intro you’ve ever read.  But the back cover blurb was smart and hooked you, so you persevere, you plod on, plough through the verbiage and you selflessly search for something gripping and scintillating.

As readers, we’ve been trained to give books a chance, to let authors warm up a little.  How amazingly generous of us! It’s not something we do for chefs, is it?  We don’t forgive a really poor starter and an insipid main course in the hope that the dessert will be a real humdinger, do we?

Nope.

Nor should we do the same with books.

Authors owe it to readers to excite right from the start. Okay, not full on, flat out, total drama that can’t be maintained or beaten for the next few hundred pages, but a mesmerizing, tantalizing level of excitement that promises even greater thrills.

Foreplay.

Every opening paragraph to every new chapter is a form of mental foreplay between the writer and reader. It’s the author’s job, to find the G-spot of that particular genre being read and worship it.

Here’s the opener to The China Dogs, my new thriller, in the vein (I hope!) of James Herbert, Stephen King, Randy Wayne White and James Grippando:

Gobi Desert, Northeastern China
The silver buses drive across the land of endless sand. Onboard are prisoners from China’s notorious Death Row. Rapists, serial murderers and child abusers.  Twenty men about to be given an extraordinary chance to live. To wipe the slate clean.

Hopefully, in that couple of hundred words, I’ve set the geographical and political scene, and a sense of the drama abut to unfold. Once main characters are introduced, openers can contain the same anticipation of drama, in much shorter form.  Here’s the start of Chapter Six

Miami
Zoe wonders how her day got so shit so quickly.

I went for a sharp shocking one liner because Zoe Speed is the kind of no-nonsense heroine who uses the word shit a lot, hence its inclusion.  She’s at the opposite end of the cultural spectrum to the refined detective she’s about to cross paths with. Lieutenant ‘Ghost’ Walton and Miami, the city he adores, demand a much gentler opener: -

Miami
Walton parks his old Sweptwing Dodge at the corner of Twelfth and Third, closes her up and looks back with pride. It’s not a car; it’s automotive art. Just as Miami is not a city, it’s a life installation.

And then, it’s back to high tension, as I introduce Zoe’s brother Danny, a character who shares his sister’s feisty and slightly unscrupulous DNA: -

New York
There’s no alternative but to run.

Run until his lungs are on fire and he can’t breathe.

Then run some more.

Danny Speed has got jammed up. It’s down to a weasel called Jason Bennett who works the Internet café Bean and Bite. He just knows it is.

And then we get to the bad guys. The really bad guys: -

Beijing
The leader of the largest army in the world showers in the luxuriously marbled bathroom that adjoins his spacious office.

He scrubs hard to rid himself of the smell of the women.
Of their sex. And their blood. And their crying.

The intention is that in a very short intro, before you even read his name, you get a sense of this guy’s hypocrisy and you decide right away that you don’t like him.  It also does the job of any good intro, it gives you location, action and expectation in the shortest number of words possible.

Everyone writes differently (thank goodness) and that’s what makes reading so pleasurable, I just find that I tend to go for those authors who have cliffhanger intros as well as endings.

If you’re writing your first book, you can do a whole lot worse than pick up your favourite novels, check out how all those new chapters start and finish, then decide for yourself what your own style is.


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About the Author

SAM MASTERS is a pseudonym for an author who has written seven books, including a bestseller that has sold in more than 30 countries. This is his first novel for Witness.


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About the Book

Title: The China Dogs
Author: Sam Masters
Genre: Thriller
Publish Date: August 19, 2014
Publisher: Witness Impulse an imprint of HarperCollins


~ Synopsis ~
Man’s best friend is about to become America’s worst enemy...

When a sudden rash of deadly canine attacks hits the greater Miami area, Lieutenant “Ghost” Walton, Special Ops, takes little notice. Blame it on the heat, a rare disease, or the fact that people just don’t know how to take care of their pets.

But when the body count rises, and the perimeter of blood and carnage spreads wider and wider, into the farthest reaches of Miami-Dade county, Ghost has no choice but to pay attention. Doggedly, he tries to uncover the link between these lethal incidents, but he doesn’t count on falling for a sassy out-of-towner with a dark past, nor does he expect to stumble onto a plot that threatens national security.

 Witness Impulse logo HC photo 23898_zpse93cdf5e.png     Goodreads logo photo Goodreads_zps0c83997b.jpg

Where to Purchase

Amazon White Button Logo photo imagescopy_zps16752ae6.jpeg     Barnes and Noble Button Logo photo c2296f_306728afb2274f4d8ff8f4c2d7ae8dcf_zps5af225a4.png


Chapter 1

Gobi Desert, Northeastern China

The silver buses drive across the land of endless sand. Onboard are prisoners from China’s notorious Death Row. Rapists, serial murderers, and child abusers.

Twenty men about to be given an extraordinary chance to live.

To wipe the slate clean.

The long vehicles that carry them are equipped with lethal electrocution equipment, state-of-the-art technology designed to deliver on-the-spot executions. The inmates can choose to stay on board and be quickly put to death; their organs harvested there and then and sold to those needing donations.

Or—when the doors swing open—they can run for their lives. Run into one of the largest deserts in the world and take their chances with what lies out there.

Air brakes hiss, sand sprays, and the five buses come to a syn- chronized stop in the blistering heat.

Three army copters hover in the sweltering air. Military bosses watch like circling vultures.

On cue, automated locks clunk and the big doors of the ve- hicles slide open.

Clouds of hot sand rise as the bare feet of desperate men jump and run from the vehicles.

No one remains.

Six miles away—six miles north, south, east, and west—the doors of four armored personnel carriers also open .

General Fu Zhang peers down like God. Watches life and death play out. People reduced to black dots, scattered like dung beetles. He can’t help but think it would be better for the men if they’d stayed on the buses.

Their deaths would be less painful.

The leader of China’s armed forces follows each and every fa- tality on his video monitor.

Nonchalantly, he waves a hand to the pilot to return to base.

He is pleased.

Seldom has he seen such efficient slaughter. Such economic carnage.

Project Nian is nearing completion.


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Giveaway

Five BlueFire Downloads



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Fantasy Review: City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

Although definitely steeped in elements of epic fantasy, and wholly dependent upon a complex mythology, City of Stairs is really an urban fantasy, one set in alternate universe that's on the cusp of an industrial revolution. Robert Jackson Bennett actually dabbles in a lot of different genres here, including those of mystery and the political thriller, but he successfully ties it all together in a surprisingly cohesive whole.

The story opens rather simply, with Shara Thivani arriving in Bulikov to investigate the death of Efrem Pangyui, a renowned Saypuri historian. There's a lot more going on here than just a simple murder, however, and it's all tied to a history of conquest, occupation, and the wholesale destruction of an entire culture. It's a conquest that extends so far as to have murdered the gods that once watched over the land of Bulikov, and to have reshaped the entire landscape through the chaos of the Blink - a catastrophic, anti-miraculous sort of event that coincided with the death of gods and the destruction of their works.

Set against that wondrously complex backdrop, we have a woman who is far more than who she initially appears. Shara is a spy, a young woman banished from home due to her overzealous nature, and who has a past romantic connection to an influential figure in the burgeoning rebellion. As we later discover, however, she actually has an even deeper, even older connection to Bulikov, with a heritage that has the potential to mark her as the darkest of villains should it be revealed. At her side is Sigrud, the strange, largely silent giant from the North who accompanies everywhere. There are a lot of hints and suggestions as to his back story scattered throughout the tale, but the true depth of his history is quite impressive once it's revealed - and he, ultimately, plays a larger role as hero than even Shara. In fact, his call to arms in the final act is the highlight of the entire novel.

As much as this is a tale of people and politics, it's also one of gods and magic. In that sense, the world building here is absolutely astounding. Bennett builds a complex pantheon of gods and goddesses, with diverse cultural practices that evolved from their worship. I love what he did with the idea of edicts and rites, of rules and commandments, particularly later in the tale when he begins to explore just how much we shape the gods, and how much they shape us. Although presumed long dead, there's still a question as to the fate of the gods, with miraculous items and rites still having power, despite being suppressed and hidden away in a mysterious warehouse that puts Area 51 to shame. That warehouse plays a key role in the tale, but to say more would be to spoil the adventure.

What's perhaps most impressive is the fact that Bennett successfully manages to reveal the true fate of the divinities, drawing them into the story as both a driving force and a dividing question of doubt, creating a climax that surprises, amazes, and entertains. Considering how magical the entire novel is, with an entire continent completely conquered and brutally reshaped by the Blink, it's actually a relief to discover that it wasn't all merely window dressing. Bennett pulls together all the myths, all the cultures, and all the social/political conflicts in a resolution that may be a bit too tidy for some, but which works beautifully.

All-in-all, City of Stairs is a remarkable book, a multi-genre crossover success that is sure to appeal to a wide range of audiences. It's impressive in both scope and range, with strong characters, an even stronger mythology, and some inventive conflicts and action sequences. As philosophical as it is entertaining, it's a book that I suspect will be making a lot of year-end best-of lists.


Paperback, 464 pages
Expected publication: September 9th 2014 by Broadway Books

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley
Expected publication: January 2015 by TOR

Brian Staveley's Providence of Fire, the second novel in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, a gripping new epic fantasy series in the tradition of Brandon Sanderson and George R. R. Martin.
The conspiracy to destroy the ruling family of the Annurian Empire is far from over.

Having learned the identity of her father's assassin, Adare flees the Dawn Palace is search of allies to challenge the coup against her family. Few trust her, but when she is believed to be touched by Intarra, patron goddess of the empire, the people rally to help her retake the capital city. As armies prepare to clash, the threat of invasion from barbarian hordes compels the rival forces to unite against their common enemy.

Unknown to Adare, her brother Valyn, renegade member of the empire's most elite fighting force, has allied with the invading nomads. The terrible choices each of them has made may make war between them inevitable.

Between Valyn and Adare is their brother Kaden, rightful heir to the Unhewn Throne, who has infiltrated the Annurian capital with the help of two strange companions. The knowledge they possess of the secret history that shapes these events could save Annur or destroy it.


The Emperor's Blades is a book I enjoyed immensely, so much so that I was willing to call it the debut of the year way back in January. The sequel may be a year away, but he currently has a giveaway going on Goodreads for a signed ARC of the sequel, so it's officially on the way!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Fantasy Review: Heraclix & Pomp by Forrest Aguirre

Heraclix & Pomp is a book that feels much older than it is, and that is most definitely a compliment. In reading it, one can't help but wonder if what Forrest Aguirre has really done is uncover a lost masterpiece of the 18th century, edit it, clean it up, and present it for our enjoyment. Yes, there are some very 21st century flourishes to the prose, particularly in the sense of weird humor, but the language, the storyline, and the mythology all hearken back to an earlier era.

What we have here is a story about death, a story about redemption, and a story about justice. There's actually more to it than that - this is a very philosophical read - but those are the three themes that stand out most strongly, and which permeate the entire text.

Heraclix is a golem, an 18th precursor to Frankenstein, crafted not out of clay but out of stolen and scavenged body parts. A magical man without a memory, a man crafted from death, he seeks to learn what life is all about. Pomp, on the other hand, is a fairy or a sprite, a happy go lucky magical being who had no concept of death until the cruelties of Mowler saw their respective mortalities cross paths. As for Mowler, he is an evil sorcerer, a repugnant human being who has been bargaining with Beelzebub for centuries to cheat his own death. Beelzebub himself, not to mention the flies over which he is Lord, are another element of death that permeates the text, as are the ghosts who quite literally haunt the tale.

Like I said, this is also a story about redemption, with Heraclix seeking to atone for the crimes of his various body parts, particularly his hand - which tends to have a cruel life of its own. Pomp is also seeking redemption of a sort, having come to regret the cruel tricks of her past, as she comes to understand concepts such as cruelty, death, and the past. The healer being haunted by the ghosts, whose own story is also part of Heraclix's tale, is another man trapped and defined by his efforts to redeem the crimes of his past. Even the poor young errand boy, who did nothing more than deliver that ominous hand, is seeking redemption not for his own evil, but for his association with it, and the cruelties it inflicted on his mother.

Justice, of course, is intimately tied in with the pursuit of redemption, but it also touches on the more banal, political side of the tale. There are alliances, allegiances, and partnerships throughout the book, all of which draw the characters together and ultimately define the beginning and the end of Heraclix & Pomp's epic journey. For, make no mistake, this is very much the tale of a journey, one that descends into the very depths of Hell, before returning to cross the landscape of the known world.

Weirdly humorous and wondrously magical, Heraclix & Pomp is a book that you'll feel like you should have read before, and which you'll be delighted to find you don't in fact remember. Like Pomp herself, learning the concept of remembering along with that of 'before' and 'yet', the reader is somewhat trapped between expectations and experiences. The narrative is exquisite, the language fantastic, and the physical depictions - particularly of hell and the flies - almost too vivid to endure. It's a book that grabs you from the opening chapter, so grab yourself a copy, introduce yourself to our three main characters, and settle in for an adventure of another age.


Hardcover, 280 pages
Expected publication: October 2014 by Resurrection House/Underland Press

Monday, August 18, 2014

Life Imitating Art: Guest Post by Crymsyn Hart

Life imitating art….hmmm what can I say? I’m not some subject of a painting that has stepped out of the landscape and I don’t normally dress up like the Mona Lisa with her strange and quirky smile. Although, I have been known to be a little quirky. And what falls into the quirkiness is some of the experiences I've had as a psychic. Trust me, it was nothing that I grew up running around screaming to the world, make me a psychic. It just kinda happened and because of those occurrences, I've been able to put many of them into the books that I write. Sure some of my characters are psychics, or witches because I’m also pagan and others are vampires.  The only the ones I have are cosmetic I can pop in and out. But when it comes to the ghosts that I've seen and the people I've read, I have a great out for putting them into my books and twisting them into fiction.

When I was in college I worked at a psychic salon in Boston, I read hundreds of people and learned a lot of things. The people at the tearoom were my second family. While I learned a few things, worked on my courses, commuted three hours a day and by the end worked two job full time and did school full time, I had enough material to put it into a book and so I did. Working at the Tearoom, I wrote my Soul Reaper Series where the first incarnation of my grim reapers appeared. Most of the people in the book are true representations of my co-workers at the time. And of course, now the Tearoom has moved a block up the street, but it’s still running owned by the same owner.

At fifteen I lived in an upstairs apartment in an old house with my mother. We used the front door to go upstairs and the landlords used the back door to access the first floor. I’d stay up late at night watching whatever on television and sometimes I would see this white streak darting into out bathroom. I never thought much of it until I came home from school one day and went into my mother’s bedroom. I got cold and looked over into the doorway and there was nothing there. However, when I glanced back into the mirror, there was a little girl about six wearing a white dress with blonde curls and dead eyes staring back at me in the doorway. There was another mirror in front of me where I could see the other mirror’s reflection. The little girl wasn't reflected in there. When I glanced back, I saw her in the other mirror. Then she was gone.

That story was the basis for my story You are My Sunshine. The little girl makes an appearance. We moved from the house soon after, although not because of the haunting. I lived in other haunted places, but that one stuck with me the most.

These days I don't do readings unless friends ask me and I don't seek out the dead. I channel that part of me into my writing and not into the dead or diving the future. I'll always be psychic and always see the dead, I can turn the dial down in my head, but I can't turn it off. Now when it comes to my muses, there is no off button for them. So my life ekes into my art because as the saying goes, write what you know.


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About the Author

Crymsyn Hart is a National Bestselling author of over seventy paranormal romance and horror novels. Her experiences as a psychic have given her a lot of material to use in her books. She currently resides in Charlotte, NC with her hubby and her three dogs. If she’s not writing, she’s curled up with the dogs watching a good horror movie or off with friends.

To find out more about Crymsyn:

Website: http://www.ravynhart.com
Twitter: @crymsynhart
Blog: http://www.crymsynhart.blogspot.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/crymsynhart
Amazon: Crymsyn Hart Author Page
Newsletter: Sign Up Here

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About the Book

Death's Dance by Crymsyn Hart 
Published June 23rd 2014 by Seventh Star Press, LLC

Being a psychic, you would think talking to the dead was a walk in the park. However, it's not always that simple. The hooded specter haunting me is one I've been dreaming about since I was a kid. One day, he appeared in my bedroom mirror. Good. Evil. I don't know what his true intentions are. Enter Jackson, ghost hunting show host extraordinaire, and my ex, to save me from the big bad ghost. From there...well...it's been a world wind of complications. My house burnt down. I'm being stalked by an ancient evil and gotten myself back into the world of being a ghost hunting psychic. Jackson dragged me, along with a few other psychics, to a ghost town wiped off the map called Death's Dance. From there things went from bad to worse. Death's Dance is Book One in the Deathly Encounters series.

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Tour Schedule and Activities

8/18 Jess Resides Here Interview
8/18 The Southern Belle from Hell Top Ten
8/18 Beauty in Ruins Guest Post
8/19 Darkling Delights Guest Post
8/19 Deal Sharing Aunt Top Ten
8/19 Shells interviews Guest Post
8/20 Stuart Conover's Author Page Interview
8/20 SpecMusicMuse Interview
8/20 Azure Dwarf Post on Artwork
8/21 Come Selahway with Me Top Ten List
8/21 Armand Rosamilia, Horror Author Guest Post
8/21 SocialBookShelves.com Review
8/21 Blog of Sheila Deeth Character Post
8/21 A Haunted Head Guest Post
8/21 The Official Writing Blog of Deedee Davies Top Ten list
8/22 SBM Book Obsession Review
8/22 Bee's Knees Reviews Guest Post
8/22 Seers, Seraphs, Immortals & More Interview
8/23 Reading Away The Days Review
8/23 Sapphyria's Book Reviews Excerpt
8/23 Horror Tree Guest Post
8/24 Willow's Author Love Review
8/24 The Rage Circus Vs. The Soulless Void Review
8/24 Bookishly Me Review
8/24 LucyBlueCastle Guest Post