books

New Project

Hey, how’s it going? I hope everyone is doing well.

As the title of this post suggests, I wanted to let you know I’ve started work on a new book. Fans of my short story, COVERT GENESIS (which appears in SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror), will be pleased to know the new book takes place in the same world. I’ve talked about wanting to take that short story and make a book out of it. I’m putting my money where my mouth is.

My previous literary agent suggested I finish a different book because it was more lucrative. I’m not writing this new book because I think it’ll be lucrative (even though I believe it will be anyway). I’m writing this one because I love the story, and world of Covert Genesis. This is a labor of love for me and I believe that love will find its way to the page. I have a loose outline and the first chapter is going well. My goal is to have the first draft done before the new year.

What can readers expect from the new book?

While I don’t have a title for the new book yet, it will explain where the parasites come from. It’ll be a mash-up of horror, sci-fi, and military action. You’ll find familiar characters as well as new ones. The goal is to set the parasite menace free and see how humanity stands up to it.

I’ll be sure to share more details as the project nears completion. Stay tuned. It’s going to be one hell of a ride!

Book Review: Year Zero, by Jeff Long

It’s time for another book review! How excited are you? Yeah, me too. Today I’ll be reviewing Year Zero, by Jeff Long. You may also recognize Jeff as the author of The Descent, one of the most influential books on my budding writing career. Someday I will meet Mr. Long and we will talk…after I gush some. Right. I’m supposed to be reviewing a book. Here goes.

Year ZeroFrom the publisher:

An archaeological manhunt is raging in the holy land — a hunt for the historical Jesus. For Nathan Lee Swift, a young American field researcher and expectant father, the line between noble discovery and the plunder of ruins is sacred — until the night he crosses it. At a Roman landfill beneath the crucifixion grounds known as Golgotha, Nathan Lee yields to his professor’s greed and turns common grave robber. His world — his unborn daughter — seems lost to him.

Hundreds of miles away, on the remote Greek island of Corfu, a wealthy collector pries open his latest black-market purchase — a fourteen-inch holy relic containing a vial of blood dating back to the first century — and unleashes a two-thousand-year-old plague. As the pandemic explodes from the Mediterranean basin and threatens to devour humankind, Nathan Lee gets a chance at redemption. He embarks on an Odyssean journey back to the United States to find his family.

Skirting the edges of the world, Nathan Lee’s path finally leads him to New Mexico, where the greatest minds of science have converged at Los Alamos to find a vaccine. There Nathan Lee meets Miranda Abbot, a nineteen-year-old prodigy. As the cure continues to elude them, Miranda launches a desperate final strategy: the use of human lab rats cloned from the year zero. Nathan Lee, the thief of bones, comes face-to-face with men made from the very relics he looted, one of whom claims to be Jesus Christ, but may also be Patient Zero.

Combining the scientific precision of The Andromeda Strain with the intensity of classic adventure epics, Jeff Long takes readers on a riveting voyage through the rubble of earthquake-torn Jerusalem, the serenity of the high Himalayas, and the eerie sanctuary of Los Alamos. With Long’s characteristic originality, Year Zero races against the apocalyptic clock, creating a maze of twists, astonishing atmosphere, and the clash of science and faith.

If you’ve read The Descent, you’ll probably like Year Zero as well. Mr. Long unleashes an ancient strain of virus on the modern world. Societies collapse, governments scramble, and people die. Whole countries perish–Greece, France, China. Eventually the US is left to search for a cure before the entire globe is infected. That was one of my pet peeves about this book. I thought some of the other countries would have tried a little harder to set up labs and brain trusts to combat the virus. I would have liked to have seen more of a shared global knowledge, instead of leaving most everything up to the US.

Anyway, the star of this story is Nathan Lee Swift. He’s a man pushed to the shady side of archaeology by his brother-in-law, becoming nothing more than a grave robber and looter in order to support is new baby. With Nathan Lee, Mr. Long does a wonderful job creating a flawed, yet very human, character. I enjoyed following Nathan Lee across the globe as he desperately tried to get back to the US and his family only to run into roadblock after roadblock. He was an easy character to root for from the very beginning.

Our other main character is Miranda Abbott, the genius daughter of Dr. Paul Abbott. We first meet her as a rebellious teen who lives to thwart her father who has done nothing but feed her mind with the best tutors and mentors money can buy. Later she becomes an important figure in America’s attempt at finding a cure, and Nathan Lee’s life. Her character grew on me. Often times her youthful energy kept the moral high ground, the light shining in dark times. Which is funny because she’s the one who comes up with cloning dead folks from two thousand years ago. Basically, she’s a scientist with a heart…which gets her into trouble along the way.

This book takes on the always touchy subject of religion too. At first, the common people worship the plague victims thinking them to be angels. When the cloning begins, humanity can’t help but wonder if one of them is the actual Jesus from the Bible. If you read any of the reviews for this book, you’ll see plenty of people complain about the cloning and religious aspects of this book. I didn’t have a problem with either. Mr. Long goes out of his way to show both the scientific and the religious aspects of everything in Year Zero. Not only that, but he does it in respectful and intelligent ways. You can tell he did tons of research.

For me, this book constantly got better. The beginning took a bit to get going, but that’s to be expected with so many pieces needing attention and a world on the brink of destruction. Trust Mr. Long to take you where you need to go…until the end. Unfortunately, I felt the ending fizzled out instead of exploding in awesomeness. While there were satisfactory conclusions to most of the character and story arcs, the ending just sort of happened. It didn’t feel satisfying.

If you’re a fan of Jeff Long, quality thrillers, or great writing, this book will appeal to you. Be forewarned, Mr. Long has a tendency to take his readers on grand adventures. Year Zero is no different. Be sure to check it out. You won’t be sorry.

What I liked:

  • Superb characters. Nathan Lee was an easy character to root for. I found myself wanting to see how his tale unfolded early on.
  • The science behind the virus added layers to the story. It was easy to see Mr. Long took his time researching.
  • The religious aspect was appealing in context to the story. I feel like Mr. Long took great care in incorporating a religious storyline, which is no small feat considering how fanatical people can be. I especially like how when the chips were down, even the most scientific minds turned to religion. Very believable.
  • How big this story felt. Readers are taken to places like Nepal, China, and Russia. Did I believe the entire world was dying off? Yes. This is a grand story that affects billions of people. Apocalypse, anyone?
  • The antagonists were just as believable as the protagonists. Brilliant minds are often egotistical and hardened. Readers believe these people would do anything to be the first to discover a cure, even murder and betrayal.
  • I loved how this book challenges our idea of what it means to be human. I often found myself wondering what I would do in the face of tough choices like these characters. Do the ends justify the means in terms of searching for a cure? Would I put the needs of the human race before those of my family?
  • The pace kept me turning pages long after I knew I should have been sleeping.

What I didn’t like:

  • It takes a bit for all the pieces to come into play. The beginning is a touch slow but not enough to make you want to stop reading.
  • The ending fizzles out. While I didn’t find it unsatisfactory, I would have liked it to flow more smoothly. After a certain key scene, the next thirty pages or so felt lacking.
  • Nathan Lee reminded me a little too much of Ike from The Descent.
  • I would have like to see more of a global effort in finding a cure.

Overall: I’d give Year Zero four out of five stars. Top notch characters and plot lines make it an easy read. If religion is a touchy subject, you may want to steer clear. Although I believe Mr. Long does a fantastic job taking religious concepts and creating compelling fiction, others may take issue. With that being said, Year Zero is definitely worth your time and money.

You can find out more about Jeff Long by following this link.

Book Review: Fall of Thanes, by Brian Ruckley

Fall of Thanes is the third installment of the Godless World trilogy, written by Brian Ruckley. If you haven’t read the first two, you’re missing out. Grab Winterbirth, and Bloodheir first. They’re worth the read.

Fall of ThanesFrom the publisher:

The True Bloods are in disarray, their alliance crumbling and their armies humbled by the forces of the Black Road. Aeglyss, falling ever deeper into madness, casts a shadow across all. At the court of the High Thane, Anyara faces a savage struggle for survival against the na’kyrim’s possessed agent: Mordyn Jerain, the Shadowhand.

In the Glas Valley, Kanin, the embittered Horin-Gyre Thane, plots a desperate rising against the halfbreed. But ultimately it will be Orisian, Thane of a Blood that no longer exists, who must stand face to face with a darkly transcendent Aeglyss and make the sacrifice – of himself and others – required to end the threat he represents.

FALL OF THANES is the spectacular conclusion to the Godless World trilogy, a sweeping epic of war, politics and empire.

After finishing this book, I put it down and said, “Wow!” That was my initial reaction. So simple, yet so accurate.

Fall of Thanes is the natural, and enjoyable, conclusion to the Godless World trilogy. What I mean by that is Mr. Ruckley does a wonderful job building upon the solid foundation of his previous two books and taking readers to the logical ending they should expect. That’s not to say he doesn’t throw a few surprises in there for good measure, because he does…in a good way. All of the characters we have come to know and love/hate are back. They all push toward the final endgame. And push they must because they are each at the end of their ropes.

I want to be clear about something. Many other readers complain about the bleakness of this book. To those readers I say why wouldn’t it be? This is a world at war. Friends, family, and fellow soldiers are dying every day. Add to that the influence of a certain na’kyrim, who fills their hearts with dread and their heads with sorrow and fear, and you have a recipe for an often bleak and bloody war. It’s not like Mr. Ruckley doesn’t give his characters a spark of hope, because he does. If the world was totally bleak, everyone would just give up. War is hardly happy, fun, or anything other than a duty. I know, I’ve been there. Everything can’t be rainbows and roses.

We’re talking about a world at war. Not a town, city, or village, but an entire world. It affects everyone. Anyone expecting anything else has only themselves to blame.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Ruckley does a fantastic job showing us how the burdens of war affect each character, the sacrifices they make. He even shows us what keeps them going when most folks would curl up in a ball and give up. The bleakness of this world at war almost becomes a living, breathing thing of its own. And I loved that aspect of this story. It felt like something different from the genre norm, a welcomed change of pace.

It felt like Mr. Ruckley found his stride with this book. The writing felt crisper, the characters more three dimensional, and the action…well, the action has always been visceral and top-notch. His characters, while always good, really came alive in this final book. He tugged on all the right heartstrings and the ending is a real tearjerker. I wanted these characters to succeed, even those who weren’t the typical “good guys”–even when, deep down, I knew not everyone would make it out alive. By the last hundred pages, I didn’t stop reading for anything. Sorry, bladder, I had to see how the story played out.

I will definitely read this book, along with the other two, again. This series will be a staple in my personal library for years to come. I’ll gladly read about these characters and this world again, and again. Being such a picky reader, that’s high praise from someone like me. Mr. Ruckley’s writing makes me want to become a better writer. It’s inspiring. He’s gained a fan for life.

What I liked:

  • The world feels vast, but not too vast to follow along.
  • The atmosphere feels like a world at war. It’s bleak, just the way it should be.
  • The characters really come alive in Fall of Thanes. Each one shines, even the antagonists.
  • People die. Sometimes they die spectacularly. The action is superb.
  • The author finds the right balance of action, description, and character insight, grabbing the reader by the heartstrings and never letting go. You’ll be turning the pages through the night and into the wee hours of the morning.
  • No character is safe from death, keeping readers on their toes.
  • Each plotline is satisfactorily resolved by the end of this book.
  • The women are still just as strong as the men, and just as important to the story. No damsels in distress here.
  • The stakes are high and readers easily believe what will happen if these characters fail.
  • This book builds upon the previous two and surpasses them in every way imaginable. Fantastic read.
  • The ending will make you weepy eyed. Very well done.

What I didn’t like:

  • I thought long and hard about anything I possibly didn’t like and came up with nothing. This book met, or exceeded my every expectation. I take it back, I didn’t like that it was over. I want more!

Overall: You’re still here? I thought you’d be starting this trilogy. Seriously, if you like quality Fantasy, then you need to read these books. I’m giving Fall of Thanes five out of five stars. What seemed to plague the first two books is absent in the third, making a much smoother read. I can’t talk enough about the fully realized female characters in Mr. Ruckley’s world. The women brought just as much to the table as the men, sometimes (in Shraeve’s case) even more. These characters and world will stay with me for years to come. I’m so happy to have stumbled onto Winterbirth, the Godless World trilogy, and Brian Ruckley. I can’t recommend this book, and trilogy, enough. Pick them up today and get reading. If there’s ever anything else set in this world, count me in. I’ll be there with bells on!

You can find Brian Ruckley here: http://www.brianruckley.com/

Book Review: Nathaniel, By John Saul

I’m going to be spoiler free with all my book reviews, talking more about what elements I liked, or didn’t like, rather than plot points. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s reading experience.

Before I get on with the review, I’d like to talk about why I went back and forth on whether to post this. This is my first unfavorable review and, being a writer, I know how a review like this would make me feel. However, I also thought the benefits of talking about why I didn’t connect with this book may help writers understand the kind of things that turn readers away. For that reason, I decided to post the review. As with any author, one positive or negative review is not indicative of every book they’ve ever written. There are plenty of Dean Koontz books I don’t care for. But there are also plenty I love. The only way we’ll ever find out is to pick each book up, read, and discover what we like, or don’t like.

Now, let’s get on with the review!

Nathaniel coverFrom the publisher:

From the blood of the past, evil rises to seek undying vengeance… Prairie Bend.

Brilliant summers amid golden fields. Killing winters of razorlike cold. A peaceful, neighborly village, darkened by legends of death? Who is Nathaniel? For a hundred years, the people of Prairie Bend have whispered the name in wonder and fear. Some say he is simply a folk tale – a legend created to frighten children on cold winter nights. Some swear he is a terrifying spirit returned to avenge the past. And soon…very soon…some will come to believe that Nathaniel lives still – darkly, horrifyingly real. Nathaniel.

For young Michael Hall, newly arrived in isolated Prairie Bend after having lost his father to a sudden tragic accident, Nathaniel is the voice that calls him across the prairie night…the voice that draws him into the shadowy depths of the old, crumbling barn where he has been forbidden to go…the voice – chanting, compelling – he will follow faithfully beyond the edge of terror…Nathaniel.

As you can see from the blurb, Michael and his mother arrive in the farming town of Prairie Bend after the “accidental” death of his father. They are taken in by his grandparents who they’ve never seen, or knew of, before. Mr. Saul’s writing is good. I had no problem with his style of writing. I had a huge problem with how the story unfolded and the characters. I simply didn’t care. I didn’t care about Michael. I didn’t care about Janet. I didn’t care about Amos. I didn’t care that they lost a loved one. I didn’t care about the paranormal aspect. I didn’t care about the town. I didn’t care about the secret. Three chapters in I closed the book and said aloud, “I don’t care.” That is never a good thing.

After that I skimmed. I would stop from time to time to give the book a fourth or fifth chance, only to be let down again. Mr. Saul failed to grab me as a reader. To be fair to him, this book was published in 1984. The publishing landscape had a completely different look and feel than it does today.

By the third chapter all that’s happened is a funeral and Michael has the creeps. Seriously. Readers are forced to sit through page upon page of character building with no real action. We learn Michael’s father never talked about his family. We learn Janet is pregnant. We learn Janet is having trouble coping with the sudden death of her husband. Blah, blah, blah. The problem is we learn all of this at a snail’s pace. At no point did I feel like this was a horror story. Mr. Saul tried to incorporate some scary elements through Michael feeling things. But, in my opinion, this was a stretch at best.

And I wanted something to happen. When things did happen they were either too meager, or too little too late. When the “I don’t care” seed has been planted in a reader’s brain, it’s hard to keep them turning pages. That’s what happened with me. Once I found myself not caring, each page became increasingly harder to turn. In an age where time is money, a slow churning book is a hard sell. I’ve got a TBR list a mile long. I don’t have time to waste on something I don’t care about. I’m sure most of you don’t either.

What I liked:

  • Mr. Saul has some serious writing chops.
  • The prologue managed to capture my attention and leave me with a few healthy questions.
  • There are a few creepy spots in this book.

What I didn’t like:

  • It takes too long for this story to get going.
  • I didn’t connect with any of the characters.
  • Hopping from character to character within chapters was a bit tedious.
  • Not enough action, or action that feels too inconsequential.
  • The ending didn’t feel satisfying.
  • The plot failed to grab me.
  • I simply didn’t care what happened.

Overall: I’d give Nathaniel, by John Saul, two out of five stars. This book failed to grab me. It slowly tried to build characters and tension, at the expense of any action, leaving readers bored. Written in 1984, this book felt somewhat dated. While I did enjoy Mr. Saul’s writing, I’m sorry to say this particular novel didn’t work for me. That’s not to say others won’t love it. This simply wasn’t enough for my particularly picky tastes. I’m not giving up on Mr. Saul, or recommending others do either. In fact, I plan on reading The Right Hand of Evil by him sometime soon. Always read based on your tastes. I know I do.

John Saul’s official website can be found here.

Tax Time Means MORE BOOKS!!!

The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.”–Abraham Lincoln

Many of us are either expecting, or have received, some kind of tax refund. Some unexpected cash can be awesome news. I don’t know about anyone else, but I spent some of that cash on new books. My To Be Read pile has doubled overnight.

Here are some of my new books:

  • Shadowmarch by Tad Williams
  • Winterbirth by Brian Ruckley
  • American Gods 10th Anniversary Edition by Neil Gaiman
  • Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind
  • Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind
  • Blood of the Fold by Terry Goodkind
  • Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry
  • Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
  • Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett
  • Stormlord Rising by Glenda Larke
  • Stormlord’s Exile by Glenda Larke
  • Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go by Les Edgerton
  • The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi
  • The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham
  • The Oath by Frank Peretti
  • The Devil Colony by James Rollins
  • Rage of the Dragon by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

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As you can see I got a lot of new fantasy, some horror, and two writing books. Quite the haul. I’ve completed The Dragonships of Vindrash trilogy (Weis, Hickman) the Stormlord trilogy (Glenda Larke), and even re-purchased two classic Stephen King books. Both of the writing books came recommended by an editor friend of mine (thanks, Courtney) and I can’t wait to see how they can help my writing.

Wizard's First RuleWhat am I reading first? I decided to read Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind. Since my latest WIP is heavy on the Fantasy, I wanted to surround myself with some. I’m about fifty pages in and liking it so far. Terry offers readers just enough description of his world and lets the reader use their imagination to supplement the rest. It’s the perfect blend, and a balance I’m still trying to find. I’m finding a good rule is to keep descriptions as short and sweet as possible so pacing isn’t hindered. My inner writer is always analyzing, even when I read for pleasure.

A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.”–Henry David Thoreau

Has anyone else purchased new books with their tax refund? If so, what did you get?