The Reaper Virus By Nathan Barnes

Ashton Kutcher once said the only reason he works out is in case the zombie apocalypse happens and he needs to save his loved ones. Far too many zombie story protagonists seem prepared for it. While the main character in The Reaper Virus does have some resources that give him an advantage for survival, he isn’t one of those people. In Walking Dead terms, he has more in common with Eugene than Rick or Darryl, but the truth is he’s just an ordinary guy who finds himself in extraordinary circumstances, a classic setup.

The story begins with a preface from Nathan, the main character who shares the author’s name. In this preface, the story presents one of the coolest promises I’ve ever read:

“I ask that you judge me for who I am and what I fought for, not what I’ve done.”

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Announcing the #CarryingCarrier Giveaway

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At long last, the novel that found a home on cold, metal e-retail warehouse racks in 2014 has moved onto the cozy, wooden shelves of your local book store. Yes, it’s exciting, gratifying, satisfying, terrifying, but the one thing that’s undeniable is my little book is all grown up.

So, let’s party.

Over the next week, I’m going to hold a giveaway contest on Facebook and Twitter. Like, share/retweet, and use the hashtag #CarryingCarrier for an opportunity to win signed print copies of the new edition, a $20 Amazon gift card, and an Amazon Kindle Fire.

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One Week Away From Carrier Hitting Stores

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I just wanted to drop by here for a few moments to observe the fact that Carrier will be in brick-and-mortar stores in a week. I could tell you about the new interior design and the higher printing quality. I could tell you how being in stores will hopefully expose the novel to a whole new audience. Instead, I think I’d rather reflect on the book itself.

I know. Blogs can be self-indulgent, and I’ve striven to not have one of those. But hey, it’s an occasion to observe, and you’re in my house right now. Pop a squat, or get out.

More than six years ago, when I was 27, I was in what some would call a rut. I imagine it’s a phase that affects many twenty-somethings. It is a part of our lives in which we accept adulthood and that we can never go back to the time when we can more often do as we choose not as we need. To a large extent, we have to cope with the fact that responsibility dictates our actions.

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Frightfully Ever After by Nick DeWolf

Frightfully Ever After

Concept: Everything from Western fairy tales, fables, and myths is real. The powers of good and evil, light and dark, are locked in an eternal struggle that goes all the way back to the beginning of time. A modern day woman finds herself wrapped up in the war as she discovers she has the power of influence, to command the light and the dark, but the other side of that coin is she has become a target.

Execution: Do nothing that is obvious. Subvert expectations time and again. Build a rich, alluring world that incorporates fantastical elements of old Anglo-Saxon cultures to modern urban contemporaries. Create unique characters based on familiar ideas. Entertain. Stimulate the intellect. Cut the fat and reject nonsense. Tell a simple, powerful story that’s never been told before.

My experience in reading Frightfully Ever After by Nick DeWolf had a recurring theme, which was to be continually impressed by how incredibly imaginative it is. Originality and creativity are planted firmly in the driver’s seat. In trying to analyze the experience, I kept thinking of words like “alluring,” “captivating,” and “immersive.” I’ll no doubt use those words multiple times as I write this.

Though not a tome—and by fantasy standards, it’s relatively short—it secretes imagination. Cracking this book open, breaking its spine for the first time, I had to wonder if this thing was bound in the bone marrow of Beowulf or Edgar Allan Poe.

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The Passage Trilogy by Justin Cronin

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I’m sitting here at my desk, and instead of working on moving my WIPs to the “Ready for Humiliation” folder, I’m staring at my bookshelf. I’m gazing at the spines of Justin Cronin’s The Passage trilogy, and I’m thinking about reading them again.

I recently finished the third book, The City of Mirrors, and it’s one of few trilogies that I can legitimately, honestly say I loved. It has everything (well, many things) I look for in fiction: a fantastical, alluring world; rich mythology; risky storytelling; deep characters; solid writing that is at times literary; complexity in just about everything. In a word: depth.

I loved it, but I’m not thinking about reading it again only because of how I felt about it. You see, The Passage is one of the only trilogies or series I bought into immediately. I can’t recall any others that I picked up before they were all completely written. And Justin Cronin isn’t cranking out a new novel every quarter. He’s putting three or four years of his life into a book, and that’s a lot of time for a reader between books. But it’s part of the reason they are so good.

I’m increasingly of the mind that good fiction cannot be rushed out the door, that authors need to live in their worlds and with their characters to truly grant them the substance they need to create meaning and allow readers to leave and take with them whatever it is they find there in those pages.

Granted, I know plenty of authors who put out really good work annually and semi-annually. Those people are freaks.

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Blake Twenty-Three by Slade Grayson

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I don’t know if this is the book you deserve, but it’s the book you need. (That’s clever, you see, because there are a lot of Batman references in this book… ahem, anyway.)

Blake Twenty-Three by Slade Grayson begins with a message the literary world needs to hear: “Just have fun.” We often forget reading and storytelling is supposed to be something we enjoy. Many of us get so stilted and wooden with our critical analysis and pushing our nerd glasses up on the bridges of our noses that we overlook an integral part of the reading experience: escape. If one-half of storytelling is information conveyance, the other half is signal quality. Maybe “integrity” is the right word there. I don’t know, but what it boils down to is a measure of enjoyment.

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On Reviews and Ratings

Sometimes, people come here and say, “oh, you do reviews. Well, I wrote a novel, and I have a blog. Why don’t we swap reviews?” It’s true that reviews are the life blood of any indie writer (have you reviewed Carrier yet?), but I write reviews here because, in addition to being an author, I’m also a reader. And sometimes, a good story gets me so hot that I have to tell people about it. I’m human. It’s only natural.

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Crash Dive by Craig DiLouie

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I’ve been reading Craig DiLouie’s work for a while. I believe his career is worth watching. Last year, he published Suffer the Children, which I fell in love with, and it was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. Craig has unquestionably made his mark on horror.

But there comes a time in every artist’s career where they get fidgety and want to try something new. That’s what Crash Dive is.

In the grand scheme of Craig’s progression as an author, Crash Dive feels almost calculated. It’s a relatively short novel. It’s hard-and-fast in a genre that he clearly has a strong affinity for. It’s somewhat safe, but he’s testing waters (he even writes in an afterword that, if Crash Dive gets a good response, he’ll turn it into a series … also, pun intended).

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Black Star, Black Sun by Rich Hawkins

Black Star, Black Sun

Reading Rich Hawkins’ novella, Black Star, Black Sun, is a bit like waking up and finding the world has already been consumed by fire, and the final embers are burning the ashen remains. It is a fearless journey into an abyss of despair.

Why would anyone want to read that? Because it’s hauntingly beautiful.

We begin with Ben Ottway returning to his hometown, a small village in England, after the mysterious disappearance of his wife, but this is no thriller with plot twists you can see coming a mile away or that are surprising because they’re utter nonsense. Ben’s wife is gone, and the point is his world has ended, yet he fights it and remains hopeful.

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My Favorite Books of 2014

Amid personal distractions, big events, work, and other happenings, I didn’t get to read as much in 2014 as I would have liked. But I did read some really good books that I connected with in ways that either surprised me or continue to affect me. Please note, I read some really good stuff this year, and these are just the books that struck a personal nerve.

Without further ado, here are my favorite novels that I read in 2014.

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