I Come To Bury 2015, Not To Praise It

2016-monkey-year

Happy Year of the Monkey!

The title of this post, of course, is from Antony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. I like to throw Shakespeare quotes around from time to time to make myself look smarter, even though I don’t regularly read the Immortal Bard’s many fine works.

2015 was not the best of years, nor was it the worst of years (there I go again, dropping literary references like Burr dropped Hamilton). The important thing is there’s a whole new year ahead of us and – even though the change in year is completely arbitrary – it’s a chance to look at things anew. I’m not much on resolutions; if I feel like breaking a promise to myself I just do it, whether or it was a resolution or not. That said, I do have a few goals I’d like to take a shot at.

  • Finally (after 10 years) finish my 3rd Black material in Kenpo. I won’t test until my son tests for his 1st, but I need to get it all done. Ten years is plenty of time for 30 techniques and 5 kata.
  • I’ve got two or three books I’d like to get out. Two are already well underway: dysRupt and H3nchm3n. I’d also like to at least get a solid start on Greetings From Sunny Aluna. If you’ve read Henchmen or Arise, the new book just continues the adventure. The series will likely end with the 4th book. dysRupt is a kind of dystopian story about an overly safe society. Greetings From Sunny Aluna picks up with Chan, Felix Crow, and Kevin and his menagerie from The Protectors and The Clock Man.
  • I’ve said this before and I probably won’t make it, but I’d like to see if I can get my bench press up to 300. I’m at 225 now, so 75 pounds isn’t all that much more.

I’d also like to take this year to try new things, do some new stuff. I’m building a cyclocross bike so that should be fun. I miss riding in the morning but it’s been in the teens here at 5am and that’s just too damned cold. In the final analysis of 2015 I had a good time, I finished another book, worked on a couple anthologies, and generally had a good time.

Before I go, allow me to offer you one of my favorite stories from The Clock Man. It was a kick to write and it’s all about that moment where you can choose to stay were you are or decide to throw caution to the wind and go forward. Or, as Jack would put it, “You can go back and clean up brains or you can have a little adventure. Go back and you might live longer; go forward and you might live better.” Read and enjoy Zona Peligrosa. NOTE: If you’ve got The Clock Man, you’ve already got Zona Peligrosa.

Zona Peligrosa by Eric Lahti

Instead of cleaning up brains, I’m gonna go for the gusto. I’m gonna stand on the roof and shout

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Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a bottle of good Scotch singing my name. Have a safe and happy New Year!

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Branding (and Re-Branding) for Authors

Andrew Updegrove: Tales of Adversego

Cattle Brand 110The desirability (or even the concept) of establishing a brand may not come naturally to many authors. Branding may appear to have nothing to do with authorship, or seem to cheapen the author’s craft, or represent an intimidating task to carry out – or perhaps even all of the above. But for non-fiction writers, and particularly genre authors, a brand is an important and unique tool to forge and to hone.

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In the Picture – 7, an End of Year Update

Indie author support & Discussion

Tom Benson

Hello guys. As we might do for our personal websites or blogs, I thought it would be appropriate to produce an ‘end of year’ post.

Paul Ruddock started this website as a sister blog to the Facebook page, and it was a massive undertaking. He was kind enough to hand it over to the group, so the effort made has been for the benefit of the group, but never forgetting where this whole thing started.

Our founder isn’t on top form at the present time, but I’m sure he knows we’re all wishing him a speedy recovery.
Thank you for what you’ve started Paul.

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In October along with Paul, and Ian, I set about the restructuring of this blog to convert it into a functional website for the IASD. A handful of aims were discussed in private messages, and then we brought in the…

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Book Review – Harmonic: Resonance by Nico Laeser

Aside from the fact that this is a review of a Nico Laeser book, this post is special because it’s the first time for a new feature I call “Clever Answers to Stupid Questions”. Every author interview has the same set of questions: Why did you start writing? What inspired this story? Are you really this awesome in real life? (It seemed like a good idea at the time, A night of drunken debauchery, Yes). Writers are good at those kinds of questions so I wanted to try throwing some curve balls and let the writers flex their muscles a bit. For any book I review (and for books where I can get in contact with the author), I’ll give the author the choice to play. If they’re not interested, no worries. So, stick around after the review and see Nico’s “Clever Answers to Stupid Questions.” It’s kind of like the shawarma scene in Avengers.

The Review

This is the second of Nico’s books I’ve read (the first was Skin Cage) and just like Skin Cage, Harmonic: Resonance does a wonderful job of taking the familiar and turning it on its head. And kicking it around a little. Then asking “are you alright?” just before poking the familiar in its eyes and tweaking its nose. His books are smooth and easy to read but will stick with you for weeks. They’re the Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters of the literary world.

Harmonic: Resonance begins at the end. Literally and figuratively. The first lines echo events from almost the end of the book and the book starts at the end of what we would call normal. It’s an excellent genre-bending story (genres are for suckers) that takes us through the end and well into the new beginning. It’s the first in a series with Harmonic: Dissonance coming sometime in 2016.

The story is told from Emily’s point-of-view, a deep focus on a young woman stuck in the middle of extraordinary events. The world burns and out of the ashes come the ghosts. Normal people – everyday folks like you and me – change as a result and the world changes with them. Because, after all, it’s people that make the world what it is. Harmonic: Resonance is a story of change and how we’re dragged, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the resultant new world.

It’s a masterfully crafted story that looks at how we react to change, especially when that change is extraordinary. In the final analysis, some will call Harmonic: Resonance a horror story. Others will call it a survival story. Still others will point at the action or the quest or politics. None of them will be wrong, but in my mind it will still be a story about change. And change is a terrifying thing. Recall the words of the prophet Garth Algar: “We fear change”. Those words were as true in the 1990s as they are now. Even without the ghosts and the demons the general end of civilization, change is a terrifying thing.

Harmonic: Resonance is a great story that drags you in and shows you a world gone mad through the eyes of one young woman who is forced to accept the changes and learn to deal with them.

The blurb:

“The whole world waits for the gates of Hell to open; at least half of them wait on their knees, praying for it to be quick, praying to a god not even the dead can say exists.
I have done all I can to prepare. All I can do now is wait with the rest. I don’t know if anyone will make it through, or if anyone will ever listen to this recording. I’m sure everyone’s version of events will be different, but the end will most likely be the same for us all. They are everywhere now, strange variations of the basic demonic form—horns, talons, and teeth. They too are waiting for the transition, the next convergence.
My name is Emily. I am twenty-three years old, and I will probably not make it to twenty-four. I don’t know what I’m hoping to achieve with this recording, if anything, but I have no one left to talk to, so you’ll have to do.”

 

Copyright 2015 (I think) by Nico Laeser. Just a side note, he does all his covers, including the illustrations. Check out his tumblr for more.

Copyright 2015 (I think) by Nico Laeser. Just a side note, he does all his covers, including the illustrations. Check out his Tumblr for more.

Get Harmonic: Resonance here

Clever Answers to Stupid Questions

I wrote up a set of seven completely ridiculous questions and let Nico pick and choose what he wanted. Here are the results.

1). Why?

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2). If the Hokie Poky really is “what it’s all about”, explain how you have used it in your daily life.

Hocus pocus, tontus talontus, vade celeriter jubeo.

3). Why do tornados always hit trailer parks?

Because a house with wheels is way more fun to blow around. (Why, if your house has wheels, would you remain in a place called Tornado Valley?)

4). Super strength or super speed?

Superposition 

5). What’s your favorite video game?

Fallout

Traditions

Back in ’92 or ’93 I was sitting in the Great Kiva in Aztec, New Mexico at 10pm or 11pm. It was one of those nights in northwestern New Mexico where the temperature dropped so low you had to measure it in degrees Kelvin. I think that was the year I was home over Christmas (or holiday, whatever) break from college and the temperature never got out of the teens the whole time I was home.

It was cold. I was cold. And I was sitting in a nine-hundred year-old abandoned Kiva listening to some idiot prattle on about something or another. Some weird blend of ancient Native American traditions and semi-modern Christianity. There were about twenty or thirty other people in the Kiva, most of them entranced by the charlatan in the expensive coat. My butt was frozen. I couldn’t feel my fingers. At the end of the … whatever the heck it was … we all held hands and sang “Kumbaya My Lord” – a song I really have no great love for.

It was, shall we say, an experience. An experience that was different from our traditional Christmas Eve of eating the worst Chinese food in the world (Winslow, AZ isn’t exactly known for its quality Chinese food) and then going to Midnight Mass. It was just me and my mom that night in that old stone Kiva surrounded by strangers and memories of lost people. It may have been cold and it may have been miserable and I may still hate “Kumbaya My Lord” to this very day, but it was an experience and I will always hold tight to that and relish that memory. And I will always love my mom for giving me those experiences, just like I will always relish the memories of eating the world’s worst Chinese food and going to Midnight Mass. Those were the experiences that defined me.

By the way, speaking of experiences, all that stuff on the back of my books about looking for UFOs and buried treasure – all true. My mom again. She had a penchant for seeking the magical in life.

Now I’m older, I’ve got my own family and we’ve got our own traditions that we’re generating. We don’t watch a lot of traditional Christmas movies, we don’t always listen to traditional Christmas music. We don’t go to Midnight Mass or eat terrible Chinese food. We eat tamales and posole. We watched Lethal Weapon (hey, it takes place during Christmas) last night, we’re watching the Xmas Futurama episodes right now. Our other Christmas movies include The Long Kiss Goodnight, Bad Santa, and Die Hard. We decorated our tree with Star Wars figures. Our Nativity scene has Han Solo and Leia Organa and R2D2 in the manger.

New traditions.

Whatever your traditions are, I hope you’re having a wonderful Holiday Season. Whether you’re waiting in fear for Krampus to show up, lighting a menorah, or sacrificing virgins to appease the spider gods, have a wonderful time doing it.

The Welcome … is launched

Tom Benson - Creative

Yes, we have lift off … with a collection of stories which detail a variety of journeys.

The Welcome - 141215I’ve only dabbled in sci-fi in the past, but following a handful of kind comments, I had a need to feed.

I wanted to add a small collection of the genre to my catalogue. In an effort to improve on the idea of 12 short stories by me, I invited submissions from international guest authors, and I was not to be disappointed.

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The collection contains six new stories from me, plus three ‘bonus’ tales which feature in other anthologies, but there are also great pieces from: AA Jankiewicz, Pam Kesterson, CI Lopez, Paul Ruddock, Val Tobin, and WK Tucker.

It’s great to have this anthology ‘launching’ within a few days of seeing British astronaut, Major Tim Peake, setting off to join the International Space Station

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Book Review – No Name by Bryan Nowak

Run, Allie. Run

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Take one young girl, one psychic, one biker gang, and one monster. Mix furiously. Add a sprinkle of metaphysics, a hefty dose of action, and allow to rise. Bake at a million degrees and douse with a delightful nitrous glaze and you’ll have Bryan Nowak‘s No Name.

One of my tests of whether or not I enjoy a book is just how easily I can fall into the story and imagine myself as part of it. I (usually) don’t go so far as to start yelling at the book and warning the characters about goings on, but I look for whether or not I can easily become absorbed. No Name held my attention and I only yelled at the characters to move faster a couple times.

As I understand it, this is Bryan’s first novel. I won’t lie and say it’s perfect but the action is well plotted, the characters are well developed, and the plot flows nicely. It’s also a wondrous thing to see the world through the eyes of the monster and that’s where No Name really separates itself from the traditional pack of monster stories. In your average monster story you see a group fighting a monster that’s a complete black box. Why is the Wolfman trying to eat everyone? We get why the Terminator or the Predator are out to kill, but we still never really hear their side of the story. A sizable chunk of No Name is from No Name’s point of view and we get to see him progress from a hunting, killing, raping machine that doesn’t really understand why it’s doing what it’s doing into a loathsome beast that understands its roots and embraces what it is. If anything, this makes the creature even more frightening because now it’s not a black box; it’s a living, breathing thing with thoughts, feelings, and despicable desires.

It’s easy to take characters and make them stereotypes, but that doesn’t happen here. Our primary actors are:

  • A teenage girl
  • An aging biker
  • A psychic who wonders about his gifts
  • The aforementioned monster

Just like the monster, the rest of the characters are fleshed out. It would be all too easy to make the teenage girl a bubble-head who can’t take care of herself, but Allie is smart and tough. She’s not all powerful and sometimes barely escape by the skin of her teeth. Red, the aging biker, is still a biker, but we get to see him as a human being rather than a leather-clad growler. Even Dale sometimes doubts himself and has been known to use his gifts for less than savory reasons.

I would have liked to see Dale use his skills a bit more or see a bit more about why the creature effectively nullifies some of his psychic skills, but otherwise No Name is a very enjoyable read and I’m looking forward to seeing what Bryan Nowak comes up with next.

Get your copy here

2015 Christoph Fischer Best Non Fiction Award

Some excellent non-fiction reads.

writerchristophfischer

922159_10151345337037132_1303709604_o (1)It’s been a busy year for Indie writers with many challenges and setbacks, not least due to Amazon deleting reviews and decreasing our visibility. So I decided to give out some Awards for the Best I have read this year. It was tough and I’m aware of a lot of fantastic books that didn’t make it to the final shortlist.

I’ll start with the Best of Non-Fiction for 2015. Four excellence Awards and one winner for outstanding Non-Fiction:

26631952Have Bags Will Travel by DG Kaye is an outstanding and hilarious DG Kaye awardtravel memoir. You can’t help loving this author with her honest and witty approach to anything she writes about. This is a great read.

PaulyanaPaulyanna: International Rent BPaulyannaoy is another memoir, very honest and insightful. Paul Douglas Lovell is simply a natural story teller. There is no other way to explain the flow and beauty of his language. He aims…

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Ban My Book – Part 2

In my ongoing attempt to extend an olive branch to the crazies I’d like to offer some very compelling reasons to ban my latest book. I wrote up a point-by-point analysis of why Henchmen and Arise should be banned, but in the interest of saving someone some very valuable time, I’ve compiled this list of excellent reasons why The Clock Man should – nay, must be banned immediately.

  • Alluding to the idea that neutrality is better than good or evil.
  • A group using a long-running battle between good and evil to make profit for themselves. Something like that would certainly never happen in the real world.
  • Use of witchcraft, Dia De Los Muertos statues, magic, and a talking weapon designed to kill Gods. Heck, just the idea that a God could be killed is considered heresy in some places.
  • Magic and ghosts. Actually The Protectors is pretty tame, but should probably be banned just to be on the safe side. It wouldn’t do to risk wrath, now would it?
  • The idea that human can capture a God and that God can start a brand new religion. Heresy. Political figures shown in a negative light. Not as negative a light as in Henchmen, but pretty negative.
  • A morally ambiguous hero.
  • Taken one way, The Clock Man can be allegory for a human killing God.
  • Murders, allusions to sex, a woman in lingerie trying to seduce someone, a woman who’s not only powerful but thinks for herself.
  • Norse Gods as real beings.
  • Magic, witchcraft, a monster that’s something less than despicable, a hint that a monster is sent as punishment.

I’ve done the heavy lifting here, so it’s up to the morality police to use their power to make sure everyone knows about this book and just how filled with moral turpitude it is.

“A coward turns away, but a brave man’s choice is danger.” – Euripides

“The truth, no matter the cost.” – Spider Jerusalem

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