Friday, February 5, 2016

WTF Friday: Night Things - Dracula versus Frankenstein by Terry M. West

Every once in a while, as the mood strikes me, I like to indulge in those titles that are a bit odd . . . a bit different . . . a bit bizarre . . . and a bit freaky. These are books that don't always get a lot of press, and which rarely benefit from any prominent retail shelf space.



They're often an underground of sort of literature, best shared through guilty whispers, and often with embarrassed grins. These are our WTF Friday reads!

Two years ago I had the great pleasure of being introduced to the dark world of Terry M. West through Monsters and the Magic Now. It was a dark, weird, perverse tale that crossed boundaries and obliterated taboos while achieving a perfect blend of genius and filth. It served to introduce us to a world where monsters are real and where men are monsters, with a story centered around the underground world of monster exploitation fetish porn. Yup, you read that right. It really went there.

With Night Things: Dracula versus Frankenstein, West delves into the consequences of that first novel, while also expanding its mythology to explore the centuries-old rivalry between two of history's greatest monsters.

Frankenstein's monster may be just that - a monster - but as Johnny Stücke he controls much of the city's human crime element above, while Dracula rules over the zombies, vampires, and shifters from below. The two were once allies, but a moment of human compassion on Johnny's part put them forever at odds with one another. Caught in between the two is Gary Hack, the heroin-addicted pornographer from the first tale, who proves to be the catalyst for an all-out war centuries in the making.

While I didn't find this quite as dark or original as the first book, it's still a solid horror novel that doesn't shy away from the darkness within us all. West's monsters are of the vintage variety, true to their literary origins, while the story itself forces you to think about the nature of good versus evil, and monsters versus man. Grounding it all (and bringing it all together) is the subplot involving Gary's daughter. Here we have a young girl forced to grow up far too fast, a man who can never live up to the title of father, and a transvestite vampire who can never be her mother, no matter how much she longs for it.

Night Things: Dracula versus Frankenstein is a story that's full of imagination, with a kick-ass finale, and a few surprise appearances from other vintage monsters.


Kindle Edition
Expected publication: March 18th 2016 by Pleasant Storm Entertainment, Inc.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday - Saint's Blood by Sebastien de Castell

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

Saint's Blood by Sebastien de Castell
Expected publication: April 7th 2016 by Jo Fletcher Books

How do you kill a Saint?

Falcio, Kest, and Brasti are about to find out, because someone has figured out a way to do it and they've started with a friend.

The Dukes were already looking for ways out of their agreement to put Aline on the throne, but with the Saints turning up dead, rumours are spreading that the Gods themselves oppose her ascension. Now churches are looking to protect themselves by bringing back the military orders of religious soldiers, assassins, and (especially) Inquisitors - a move that could turn the country into a theocracy. The only way Falcio can put a stop to it is by finding the murderer. He has only one clue: a terrifying iron mask which makes the Saints vulnerable by driving them mad. But even if he can find the killer, he'll still have to face him in battle.

And that may be a duel that no swordsman, no matter how skilled, can hope to win.


While I had some challenges with Traitor's Blade,  Knight's Shadow was truly a must-read book, a title that I quite literally could not put down. It was the kind of historical fantasy that makes everything else pale in comparison, and it has me ridiculously excited for the next book in the series.

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Fresh Take on Superpowers (a guest post by Cy Wyss)

A Fresh Take on Superpowers
a guest post by Cy Wyss

After 80 years, how can anyone write about a superhero and keep it fresh and new? It sometimes seems like every power under the sun has been investigated. But what about circumscribed superpowers? By that I mean a power whose extent is fixed and known. In contrast, how powerful is Superman? The answer is, he’s always as powerful as he needs to be for the story.

There’s a scene in The Simpsons where the family is watching Knight Boat, a twist on the 80s show Knight Rider with David Hasselhoff. The bad guys are getting away…but then there’s a canal so Knight Boat can follow. Homer mourns, “Aw, there’s always a canal.” Bart pipes up, “Or an inlet.” Lisa adds, “Or a fjord.” That’s of course the problem with superheroes. They always have the strength to deal with the challenges they’re faced with, or some deus ex machina allows them to use their power to win.

Alternatively, I was interested in powers that have an a priori fixed extent. In Dimorphic, I posit the superpower of being able to use two bodies. Whenever the main character, Judith, falls asleep, she switches between her own and her twin brother’s braindead body. Other than that, Judith and her brother Ethan are normal people. True, Ethan is a gymnast and Parkour expert, but he ultimately can’t do anything that fit and practiced men can’t do. So the power is beyond what anyone has, but is relatively circumscribed. What does it boil down to? I think it boils down to information transfer. What one twin knows before they go to sleep, the other one wakes up knowing. No need for a cell phone.

What does that boil down to? The element of surprise. If one twin goes to sleep in the company of bad guys, the other can come and rescue them. And it would be a surprise, for how could the bad guys possibly prepare for the information transfer capabilities of the twins? On the other hand, all they have to do to thwart the superpower is put a bag over their captive’s head. This is a hallmark of a limited superpower. Like ordinary heroes, more guile is required. Of course, since my stories are about the hero, there needs to be some way they win. But with a limited superpower the stories depend less on the superpower than one might at first think. It all comes down to human resourcefulness. Ultimately, as Judith finds out, being a superhero is all about hanging in there when the going gets tough and making the most of your limited, human capabilities.

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About the Author

I live and write in the Indianapolis area. After earning a PhD in Computer Science in 2002 and teaching and researching for seven years, I’ve returned to the childhood dream of becoming an author. I better do it now because I won’t get a third life.

Behind me, I have a ton of academic experience and have written about twenty extremely boring papers on query languages and such, for example this one in the ACM Transactions on Databases. (That’s a mouthful.)

Now, I write in the mystery/thriller/suspense genres and sometimes science fiction. I know for some people databases would be the more beloved of the options, but for me, I finally realized that my heart wasn’t in it. So I took up a second life, as a self-published fiction author.

Online, I do the Writer Cy cartoon series about the (mis)adventures of researching, writing, and self-publishing in today’s shifting climate. I also love to design and create my own covers using GIMP.

author's website author's twitter author's facebook

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About the Book

Dimorphic by Cy Wyss

It's easy to become a superhero.

First, discover a superpower. It might take a while to get used to, though --- especially if it's something as weird as being your twin brother half the time.

Second, recruit a sidekick. Or, two. It'd be nice if they weren't a pyromaniacal sycophant and a foul-mouthed midget, but you get what you get.

Third, and most important, hire a mentor --- preferably not a vicious mobster with a God complex, however, this may, realistically, be your only choice.

Finally: go forth and fight crime. Try not to get shot, beaten, tortured, or apprehended in the process.

Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Published by: Nighttime Dog Press, LLC
Publication Date: November 4th 2015
Number of Pages: 338
ISBN: 0996546510 (ISBN13: 9780996546515)
Note: Dimorphic contains Strong Language
Purchase Links:
Dimorphic on Amazon
Dimorphic on Goodreads

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Giveaway

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Cy Wyss. There will be 1 winner of 1 $25 Amazon.com US Gift card. The giveaway begins on Jan 24 and runs through Feb 29, 2016.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

In case you missed any of it, here's what happened in the Ruins this week . . .


The Ghost in the Machine . . . a guest post by Aldous Mercer

A Rant about Rude, Lazy, Ignorant Authors

Reboot? No, Re-imagine. a guest post by J Tullos Hennig

Fantasy Review of City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

Horror Review of The Moon in Your Eyes by Adrian W. Lilly


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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.

For Review:

Freeze/Thaw by Chris Bucholz
Expected publication: May 17th 2016 by Apex Book Company
The Shade, a set of micro-satellites designed to stop global warming, worked. A little too well. The Earth is icing over and no one knows how to shut the Shade off. Every attempt in the last thirty years has failed and humanity is nearly out of options to regain a world that isn’t covered in snow. Gabe Alfil may be the only person alive with enough expertise to solve the problem, but a group of eco-terrorists has other plans.

The Fireman by Joe Hill
Expected publication: May 17th 2016 by William Morrow
No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe. 

 

The Devil's Serenade by Catherine Cavendish
Expected publication: April 19th 2016 by Samhain Publishing
Maddie had forgotten that cursed summer. Now she’s about to remember… She’s barely settled in the Gothic mansion she inherited from her auntbefore a series of bizarre events drive her to question her sanity. Aunt Charlotte’s favorite song shouldn’t echo down the halls. The roots of a faraway willow shouldn’t reach into the cellar. And there definitely shouldn’t be a child skipping from room to room. 

War God Rising by Tim Marquitz
Expected publication: January 31st 2016
Monty Python meets Gladiator! Sand is destined for greatness. Or so a pair of two-bit criminals would have him believe. After rescuing him from certain doom, Bess and Kaede embark on a scheme to game the War God Tournament. It’d be easier if Sand wasn’t an alcohol-soaked twit with a disturbing interest in mutton. Pitted against monsters, magic swords, and murderers galore, they soon realize winning the tourney is the least of their worries. 

 

Published December 1st 2015 by Meerkat Press, LLC
Twenty-six brilliant speculative fiction stories about love, and the pain that so often accompanies it. Enjoy a cornucopia of imaginative tales, wondrous settings, and unforgettable characters—such as the disillusioned time traveler who visits ancient Japan to experience a “Moment of Zen,” the young woman from planet Kiruna who can only communicate in song when the moonlet Saarakka is up, and the sorcerer who loses their happiness in a bet with a demon. 


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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.

Dragon Hunters by Marc Turner
The sequel to When the Heavens Fall features gritty characters, deadly magic, and meddlesome gods. Once a year on Dragon Day the fabled Dragon Gate is raised to let a sea dragon pass into the Sabian Sea. There, it will be hunted by the Storm Lords, a fellowship of powerful water-mages who rule an empire called the Storm Isles. 

Night Things: Dracula versus Frankenstein by Terry M. West 
This novel spans several centuries, following the relationship of the two most iconic monsters in literary history. Once as close as brothers but now sworn enemies, Bram Stoker's Dracula and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein meet for a final showdown beneath the streets of New York City. 


What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Ghost in the Machine . . . (a guest post by Aldous Mercer)

The Ghost in the Machine, Descartes, and the difference between SF and Fantasy
Aldous Mercer

Talking about what makes a book Science Fiction or Fantasy does feel, to some extent, like flogging a dead horse. Pretty much everyone agrees that spaceships and aliens do not SF make—“Star Wars” is a work of epic fantasy, regardless of the genre retconning attempted by the midichlorians. Similarly, feudal societies and dragons do not automatically mean Fantasy—Anne McCaffrey’s Pern (even in the first two books) is SF regardless of the world’s sword-and-bard trappings.

Readers do have a “gut feel” for which camp a work of fiction falls into. And not a s’mores-and-rafting type of camp either, but a military one from which soldiers strike out to do battle. Make no mistake, there is a battle, and always will be a battle—at the heart of them, these two genres are inherently inimical to each other, for all that they are found together in Amazon’s fiction-categories and bookstore shelves. It’s not a question of shades of grey, or “future-looking” vs “past”, or scientific progress vs. post-apocalyptic regret for a golden age; this SF vs. Fantasy question is just another subset of the most divisive and important questions that humanity has yet to answer.

It’s a question of whether there is a Ghost in the Machine, or not.

The champion of the Fantasy army was none other than Descartes, of Cartesian coordinate and “I think therefore I am” fame. Rational Descartes, logician and patron of the natural sciences, was still a Dualist; for Descartes, the mind (or the soul, or the spirit) was something other than Body, something more, an inhabitant and a controller.

Science Fiction’s star warrior is less well-known. The stalwart Gilbert Ryle coined the phrase “The Ghost in the Machine” to describe Descartes’s worldview, and dismissed it out of hand as “speculative”. Neuroscientists and philosophers and psychologists today are overwhelmingly critical of the dualist approach, and firmly convinced of consciousness as a property of the body and not apart from it, and many are even of the opinion that consciousness itself is not a thing in and of itself but merely an emergent sensation, an inward-looking version of the same mechanisms that give us taste, and smell, and touch. Research continues.

Science Fiction and Fantasy are great fun, but they are also a form of gedanken experiment through story, a philosophical device that was old long before Plato imagined his cave. SF & Fantasy books are simulations, if you will—in a universe where the gods actually answered prayers, what would the people be like? What would define their loves, their losses?  In a universe where we had absolute control of our genome, who would we want to fuck?

I really don’t think an SF or Fantasy writer can write a book without first answering the mind/body dualism question. They may not be conscious of answering it, and they may do it but indirectly, yet the very foundations of their world are a consequence of choosing a side in the matter. Mystical Dune is very firm on the fact that the Kwazich Haderach is simply one possibility of many that we carry in our own genomes, that prophecy is a construct, and that destiny itself is simply a drug-induced hallucination, a self-fulfilling prophecy generations of gene-manipulation in the making. Pragmatic Song of Ice and Fire, where the most gut-wrenching conflicts are born of men and their base, body-based, compulsions, is nevertheless held helplessly in thrall of the Other—spiritual and mystical forces independent of the laws of experiential reason or biological truth.

I was very careful to call The Prince and the Program a work of “Science Fantasy”. I couldn’t answer the mind and body question—research is still being conducted, as I mentioned. And so I made a battleground of my characters. Alan is the Ghost in the Machine, a mind and soul devoid of bodily causality. Mordred is simply the logical consequence of his sensory experiences and viral biology, a biological simulation, an organism, propagated for a thousand years. And he knows it.

I really didn’t intend to write a love story when I started out—the ghost of Alan Turing and the bastard son of King Arthur working at a Canadian tech startup? They were supposed to be a battleground of conflicting opinions, gedanken experiments given voice. But when Mordred defined himself as a soul, and Alan became convinced of the sovereignty of body, I knew I was in trouble. Research continues, and I’m looking forward to the results obtained in Book Two (should I ever finish writing it).


From: M Penn <m.penn@electrickindren.com>
Date: Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 2:33 PM
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Machine Loving
To: cto@electrickindren.com

Dear Alan,
Love is one soul recognizing another
Regards,
Mori

From: <cto@electrickindren.com>
Date: Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 2:35 PM
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Machine Loving
To: m.penn@electrickindren.com

Dear Sceptic,
Souls can be programmed.
Truly,
Alan
From: M Penn <m.penn@electrickindren.com>
Date: Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 2:36 PM
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Machine Loving
To: cto@electrickindren.com

Dear Genius,
I dare you to try.
Regards,

Mori

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About the Author

Aldous Mercer likes to create worlds, then populate them. You can read his flash fiction and short stories at technomance.com, and he can be reached for questions, comments and vitriol at mercer[at]technomance(.)com, @technomance on twitter.

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About the Book

The Prince and the Program
by Aldous Mercer

Mordred Pendragon, the Bastard Prince, has done a Bad Thing—again. Exiled to Canada for seven years, he has to find a job to pay his bills. For reasons he refuses to reveal, Mordred decides “Software Engineer” has a nice ring to it. And though experience with “killing the Once and Future King, my father” and “that time in feudal Japan” makes for a poor résumé, he is hired by a small tech startup in Toronto.

In the midst of dealing with a crippling caffeine addiction and learning C++, Mordred thinks he has finally found someone to anchor him to the world of the living: Alan, the company’s offsite lead developer. Except that Alan might not be a "living" entity at all—he may, in fact, be the world's first strong AI. Or a demon that mistook a Windows install for the highway to Hell. Or, just maybe, the ghost of Alan Turing, currently inhabiting a laptop.

Mordred's attempts to figure out his love life are hampered by constant interference from the Inquisitors of the Securitates Arcanarum, corporate espionage, real espionage, a sysadmin bent on enslaving the world, and Marketing's demands that Mordred ship software to the Russian Federation. Then Alan gets himself kidnapped. To save him, Mordred must ally himself with the company’s CEO, who will stop at nothing to rescue her lead developer so he can get back to work. But the Prince doesn’t just want to rescue Alan, he wants a Happily Ever After—and he will travel beyond Death itself to get one.

Too bad Alan is perfectly happy as a computer.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Rant about Rude, Lazy, Ignorant Authors

I've done a number of interviews with other blogs over the years, and one question that always comes up is what advice I'd give to an author looking for reviews. My answer is always the same - Do Your Homework.

There are days where I actually dread opening up my email or checking the submissions on my review form because I know it's just going to be an exercise in adding authors to my black list. Some of these authors I can dismiss as being lazy and opportunistic, dropping spam bombs on every reviewer they can find. These are authors who mined my email address from my Amazon profile, never bothering to read the very simple statement that identifies me as a "Science fiction & fantasy reader, reviewer, and writer."

These are the authors who send me review requests for books like . . .

  • Being Equal Doesn't Mean Being the Same (SELF-EMPOWERMENT BOOK)
  • Introduction to Journal Writing: The Absolute Beginner's Guide to the Life Changing Habit (TEEN & YOUNG ADULT / SELF-HELP)
  • Minecraft: 50 Unofficial Minecraft Books in 1 (CHILDREN'S EBOOKS / ACTIVITY BOOKS)
  • I just released my first two COLORING BOOKS on Amazon

Then there are authors who actually made an effort to stop by the blog, who made a point of visiting my Review Policy, and who took the time to fill out the Review Request form. Forget lazy and opportunistic, the authors that get blacklisted here are nothing less than rude, ignorant, and possibly even arrogant. They are authors who deliberately ignored the very clear cautions about what I won't read (one at the top of the page, and one above the request form).

What you won't find here is faith-based fiction, religious themes, YA or NA fiction, romance novels, poetry, and self-help or how-to books. These are subjects that do not appeal to me, so please don't waste time your time or mine by submitting such titles.

Before you waste your time filling out the form, please remember that I do NOT read YA/NA fiction. I am NOT interested, and your pitch is NOT going to change that.

These are the authors who send me review requests with notes like . . .

  • This eBook will help kids grow in the positive directions. The only best way on how to do this is by use of positive affirmations. (GENRE: SELF-HELP)
  • The first volume in a trilogy of YOUNG ADULT fantasy adventures sure to delight fans of C.S. Lewis
  • For YOUNG ADULTS and adults with open minds
  • I AM SLEEPLESS: SIM 299, a newly released YA Science Fiction novel

In case you think I'm exaggerating, the above are all examples from the past week.

I have nothing but respect and admiration for most authors. I know what goes into writing and editing a book. I have nothing but sympathy for the challenges they face in marketing their own work. It's not an easy job, but you're never going to be successful if you don't do your homework. Blatantly ignoring a reviewer's guidelines is only going to get you blacklisted and forever consigned to the spam folder.

Finally, the same caution about doing your homework applies to book communities like Goodreads. Blindly adding friends just so you can spam them with invitations to your young adult, romance, or self-help group is just as offensive and insulting. The only thing worse is re-inviting them (multiple times) when they've declined the invitation. That's a quick and easy way to not just getting yourself unfriended, but flagged as well.

Yeah, I'm being a bit of an ass this morning, but this shit frustrates me. Every spam email I have to scan through, every day I have to open my review form for nonsense, and every time I have to go through the nonsense of cleaning up Goodreads . . . that's time I can't spend reading and reviewing books from authors who are intelligent, polite, and respectful - and that's the real shame.