Recommend It Monday–The Unseen, Eleanor by Johnny Worthen

Last week, Johnny Worthen stopped by to tell us about his newest novel, The Unseen, Eleanor.  Since then, I’ve had a chance to dive into it.

The book is fantastic.  The one element that I appreciate the most throughout the entire novel is the fear.  Eleanor has never known a life without fear.  What Worthen does a beautiful job of is layering that fear, so she’s physically afraid of the humans that killed her family and of people in general who would harm her if they knew the truth, but she’s also emotionally afraid: to love, trust, and not be afraid.  The one person she can trust with her truth is dying more every day, so now she has the added fear of what will happen to her once Tabitha is gone.  There are moments in the novel when Eleanor wants to trust so badly and it’s heartbreaking to watch.

Eleanor and Tabitha are hiding in a small town, and Worthen does a wonderful job of showing the tradeoffs of that.  On the one hand, when she’s not required to be at school and doesn’t need to go into town, she’s free to live her life without interference.  Except for the social worker who drops by every month to check on them, they’re pretty much left alone.  On the other, the town is so small that if something unusual happens, the twisted version of it spreads like a wildfire that can never be fully extinguished.  Eleanor sacrifices so much in order to remain unseen.  The book is a wonderful fit for everyone from young teens to adults.


Recommend It Monday–Beatrysel by Johnny Worthen

Since I knew I would be spending a lot of time trapped on an airplane (which didn’t crash afterall), I loaded up my current ebooks and got some reading done.  I don’t like reading ebook format.  It has nothing to do with the quality of book.  It’s a sensory thing, like eating pears.  Sure, they taste good but they feel like I’m eating grit.  That said, I’ve had this copy of Beatrysel for a long time now and it’s one that I’ve really been wanting to read, so I did.  It’s wonderful.

In the interest of honesty and full disclosure, I will say that Worthen is a friend of mine.  That said, this is still a damn fine book and I wouldn’t be reviewing it otherwise.

He did a good job creating characters that I cared about.  The opening scene was a little disorienting until you read further along.  I thought it was an interesting choice to give us the scene and then later on (more than a few pages) give us the context for that scene.  I think that choice made the scene more meaningful.

He writes beautiful prose.  Seriously, never underestimate the value of a well crafted sentence.  There were a couple of places where I, personally, would have worked it a little differently for smoothness and flow, but there weren’t very many of those.  His writing is engaging and keeps you interested from start to finish.

I’ve always been fascinated with the occult, so this book was great for that.

If I had to sum up Beatrysel, it would be:

If light, then dark; if love, betrayal; if joy, pain.

Recommend It Monday–Tears of Isis by James Dorr

I had the pleasure of interviewing James Dorr for Author Corner awhile back, and one of the things we discussed was his short story collection, The Tears of Isis.  I’ve finally been able to read it (I blame actual employment and graduate school for the delay), and the first thing I want to mention is how beautiful it is.  The language Dorr uses as he tells his stories is wonderful.  Some of the stories are his takes on fairy tales.  Cindy is the most obvious one, but others are Snow White and Sleeping Beauty told as River Red and The Ice Maiden, respectively.  What I enjoyed most about these stories is that they employ the same world dynamics.  It was nice to go back to this world and read other aspects of it.  His versions of the tales are unique and subtle.  In fact, with River Red and The Ice Maiden, I didn’t realize what they were until after I had finished reading the collection.  Some people may not like the delayed connection, and maybe those people who are smarter than I am will make the connection as they read these stories, but I rather enjoyed that I was still appreciating the collection and getting new things from it after the fact.  The final story, The Tears of Isis, was the most sublime (Burke) for me.  I had the most powerful reaction reading it, a mix of horror, disgust, and fascination, and I think it was well placed within the collection.

If you’re looking for some new reading material, I’d suggest grabbing a copy of this book.

Recommend It Monday–Four Days by Eli Wilde and ‘Anna DeVine

Last time on RIM, I reviewed Cruel by Eli Wilde.  Today, I’m going to talk about the next book in the Strangers in Paradise Trilogy, Four Days.  When I talked about the first book, I compared it to the movie 8MM in that you only need to consume it once, and then never again.  For most people, I’d say this holds true with Four Days.  I just may pick this one up again sometime, though.

Four Days

This book is both horrible and beautiful.  What separates it from Cruel, for me, is that Emily is a grown woman when the events of the book takes place whereas Evan is a small child when his story begins.  For me, that makes it easier for me to handle Emily’s story.  This book is every bit as graphic as the last one, so if you have any triggers this is not the book for you.

What I appreciate the most about Wilde and DeVine is their ability to be graphic without being gratuitous.  Violence, especially sexual violence, serves a purpose.  It’s a horrible purpose, to be sure, but a purpose nonetheless.  The writing is captivating and skillfully done.  There’s also a commitment to the story.  If at any time Wilde and DeVine would have hesitated or faltered in any way, the whole thing would have imploded.

Like Cruel, Four Days is a shorter book and is meant to be read in a single afternoon.  This time, I devoured the book and was left wanting to know more.  Dublin is the final book in the trilogy, and I don’t have a release date on that yet, but I cannot wait to get my hands on it.  The first two books can be read as stand-alones, and they can be read in any order.  I read them in their proper order, and it was neat to see the way the authors wove in those intersections.  

If you read this book, or Cruel, stop back by and let me know what you thought.

Recommend It Monday–Cruel by Eli Wilde

It’s time once again for RIM.  I wish I could do these more often than I do, but grad school makes outside reading problematic, so I do what I can when I can.  That said, I just finished Cruel by Eli Wilde.

There are certain things I feel that people should experience once because they need to.  One such example is the film 8MM.  These are things you should experience once, but once is enough.  Cruel is one of these experiences.


The book is what its title suggests: it’s cruel.  Some passages gave me goosebumps from their unvarnished honesty.  Others made me feel slightly ill.  The novel is set up in cantos, short memory passages that make reading it a one evening experience.  That is, if you can take that much in one sitting.  I could not.  I found myself reading in chunks, letting parts digest and break down before going back for more.  The first half, for me, was harder to get through than the last half.  I guess it’s easier to distance yourself from a damaged man than it is to watch a child becoming damaged.

The prose is well crafted and that’s largely what makes the book work the way it does.  Less skill from the author would have left it feeling gratuitous.  There are jumps in time, but each canto is dated so its easy to keep track of the time.  The first person POV makes the novel uncomfortably intimate.  It’s wonderful.  It has a mostly linear progression, with acts of cruelty lining up like dominoes waiting for the push.

Read this book.  Take as much time as you need to in order to get through it, but do it.

Recommend It Monday–The Perpetual Motion Machine Club by Sue Lange

I received The Perpetual Motion Machine Club by Sue Lange as a review copy.  This is a Young Adult Science Fiction novel.  Overall, it was an enjoyable read.

The book started out a little bit slow for me.  It took me a couple of chapters before I really got hooked on it, but once Lange got into the Perpetual Motion Machines, I was hooked.  Elsa is fantastic.  I loved the layers Lange added to that character.  She wants to be different, and that comes with consequences, but she accepts them all (some she handles better than others) and ends up making a difference.  She’s very intelligent, but she’s not always very smart which can be frustrating for some people.  I think it accurately describes a sophomore aged teen.  I also appreciate all of the ways Lange lets Elsa down throughout the story.  The romance plot with Jimmy was a little predictable, but I didn’t really mind that so much because Jimmy was a pretty great kid.  It helped to highlight Elsa’s personal growth when she came to that realization for herself.  The world Lange builds takes the clique dynamic and feeds it steroids.  Most teens feel like high school is life or death, but Lange almost makes that feeling a reality by forcing that dynamic out of the friendship sphere and making it into a career sphere.  Being in the “right circle” now has far greater importance because it can affect where, or if, you attend college and whether you get sponsored or not.  The corporate sponsorship gets to be overwhelming pretty early into the story, but I’m ok with that because I imagine living inside of that atmosphere would be overwhelming.  I think it’s another way to help relate to the characters.

There were a couple of flaws for me.  The most serious one is the lack of an established time.  The story is set in the future, but there is no real marker for me how far into the future it is.  Some moments make it seem like it’s only a decade or so, but others make it seem like it’s much further into the future.  That fluidity of time makes it hard to feel grounded in the story.  Another involves Penn State.  Elsa has a Penn State sweatshirt that she wears all the time.  For her birthday, Jimmy makes her a beret in Penn State’s colors.  The book tells us the hat was blue/yellow and those are not their school colors.  Their colors are blue/white.  This last one is a personal pet peeve of mine, so I’ll mention it since I’ve ranted about it on here before, but “conversate” appears in the novel.  You either converse or you have a conversation.  Is it minor?  Yep.  Like I said, though, it’s a personal thing with me so I’m mentioning it.  It only appears the one time, so unless you are as particular as I am, you probably won’t even notice it’s in there.

I don’t know much about Perpetual Motion Machines, but those sections were the stars for me.  I think it let us see Elsa in a slightly different way than at any other time during the novel.  Plus, the machines themselves were fascinating.  I wish I could have visited Elsa’s FutureWorld display because I think it would have been amazing.

I enjoyed this book.  Is it perfect?  No.  That said, it’s a damn entertaining read.  I plan on passing it along to my 14 year old son to see his take on it.  There’s enough science and math thrown in that I think he’ll enjoy it, too.

I Love What I Do

If you follow me on Twitter, or you’ve been exercising your keen sense of observation by looking on the left side of the blog at my Twitter feed, you’ve noticed some recent announcements about upcoming interviews.  I’m now booked into November and the spots keep filling up.  I spent a goodly portion of my day yesterday talking with authors, reading press releases, and coordinating book reviews with publishers.  

I love my job.

It’s not a job where there are health benefits, or financial security, or even finances.  I’m not opposed to finances, however.  There just aren’t any at the moment.  When you get up every morning and do something because you love it, you know you’re in the right field.  I got into this by accident.  I wrote a book and the book got published.  (Hooray for publishing!)  If I had a better idea of what I needed to be doing at the time, I would have created my online presence well before I ever sent the manuscript out for consideration.  I had no clue what I was doing, and in some things I still don’t, but I am constantly learning.  (Hooray for learning!)

Once the book was accepted and work got underway for that, I started trying to create a platform for myself.  It wasn’t until the book had been out for three months or so that I repurposed an old blog.  We’ve come a long way since then.  The blog was for my multimedia writing class, and an author platform was perfect for it, so Erindipity was born.  One of the things my blog needed to have for the class was a weekly feature.  Recommend It Monday seemed a perfect way for me to get recommendations from people and explore new authors.  I’d read a recommended author/title, and then do a review.  Then, I started reviewing titles I wanted to read for my own interests.  Now, I’m working with authors and publishers to formally review their works.  *squee*  Sorry.  I’m better now.  

My first few interviews as an author were for the blogs of other authors I know.  I enjoyed being interviewed and decided to try my hand at interviewing other authors and helping spread the word about their current releases.  It was a blast.  It seems I know more horror writers than can possibly be healthy for any single individual.  One day I woke up and there was a corpse oozing on my furniture.  He had a note pinned to his chest that said his name was Charlie and admonished me to take good care of him.  Of course, the note failed to mention that he’s also a bit of a perv and likes to eat the middles out of my pies.  Just the middles, mind you.

Before I knew it, I had a new interview lined up every week.  They are great writers and great human beings.  Some of them I am privileged to call friends.  There are others I am just now meeting, and still more that I am waiting to meet in the future.  They make me laugh and cry.  They inspire me to work at my own craft.  They teach me things I didn’t know.  I hope they have as great a time as I always do having them over.  I’d like to think I’m becoming a stronger writer for having met them.

So, here we are.  I have interviews booked until almost the end of the year.  I have books waiting in queue to be read and reviewed.  I’m helping to spread the word of these talented people and I’m having an absolute blast doing it.  I don’t get paid for this, but I will get up tomorrow morning and check my email.  I’ll respond to inquiries and schedule dates.  I’ll write up interviews and pull books out of my mailbox.  Because I love what I do and you can’t buy that.

Recommend It Monday–The Deepest Blue by Kim Williams Justesen

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted for Recommend It Monday.  I meant to post this last week, but my grandfather had passed away and last Monday was his funeral.  So, I’m posting it for this week instead.

The Deepest Blue is a YA novel that deals with grief and loss.  I’m not sure if reading this before my grandfather’s funeral was the best thing for me to do, but I was able to very easily connect with all of the emotion in the book.  The narrator is Mike, a fifteen year old who lived with his father and had an absent mother.  The book explores what happens to him once his father dies.  As far as believability goes, Justesen convinced me I was listening to a teen boy and experiencing his world through his eyes.  He’s impulsive, he makes mistakes, and he can be rather myopic when it comes to dealing with the loss of his father.  In short, he’s a teenager.

The plot is straightforward, and in this case, I think that’s a good thing.  It allows you to focus on the emotion and the nuances without being distracted by sudden plot twists.  In the end, the book is less about (in my opinion) what happens to Mike physically, such as where he will live, and more about his psychological transformation and feeling that pain.  I’m not going to lie, there were tears from me.  If you don’t at the very least get a little misty, you should have your heart looked at.  It wasn’t an author contrivance, though.  She really does a wonderful job of honestly looking at all of the emotions and putting them out there, warts and all.

What I like the most about this book is that it will appeal to any reader.  I enjoyed it very much, and my son would also like it.  Well, he would like it if I could manage to get him to read something more substantial than the back of a cereal box.  I mean, I’m an author and I have a degree in English for crying out loud.  It’s embarrassing.

This book is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.  If you grab a copy, be sure to let me know how you liked it.

Recommend It Monday–The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop

After I read “Written in Red” by Anne Bishop, I was inspired to reread the Black Jewels Trilogy by her (Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, Queen of the Darkness).  I found them all in one volume several years ago and bought it.  And yes, I reread all three books since last week’s post.  That’s how much I love them.  There are a few more Black Jewels books after these three, but these are the ones I like to reread the most.  In fact, occasionally I will flip to the section in Heir to the Shadows where Jaenelle sets up the Dark Court because it gives me goosebumps and makes me teary.

I love how all of her characters are flawed.  The bad guys are really bad, and the good guys are damaged in some ways, simply flawed in others.  If I had to complain about something, I would say that it would be nice to see the bad guys with at least one good trait.  It’s way too easy to hate them.  A few glimmers of goodness in these vile people would have made hating them a little more interesting.  It’s also interesting to see how she treats the Matriarchal Society she sets up for the books because she shows how it can work and how it can go horribly wrong.

Bishop does a good job explaining the rules of the Realms before you get into the books.  She lists all of the jewel colors in descending order, explains how far one can move from the Birthright jewel to their mature jewel, and outlines the castes and how they relate to each other.  Everything else she explains as the story progresses.  She jumps ahead in time fairly often, sometimes by several years, and it can be a little confusing to keep those jumps straight, but it’s not impossible and it’s not a huge deal.  Most of the time it’s a pretty smooth jump.

She also tells the stories through several different perspectives, both human and Kindred.  She handles those really well and I like being able to get inside of several different characters to see how they’re experiencing things.  Since these are stories about the Blood, she doesn’t really get into the Landens at all.  Landens are the non-magical people who live in the realms with the Blood.  It would be interesting in a future book to get one from the Landen perspective.

So far, I haven’t read a series by Bishop that I haven’t enjoyed.

Recommend It Monday–Written in Red by Anne Bishop

Yes, I know.  I’ve been remiss in doing RIM lately.  Mostly because I haven’t had a lot of time to sit and read something.  However, when taking my son to the library on Saturday, I saw there was a new Anne Bishop novel out.  I had to grab it.  And then I proceeded to devour it.

Written in Red is a new realm.  I love the Dark Jewels books and the Ephemera books, so I wasn’t too worried about starting this new series.  Overall, I really enjoyed the book and I’m looking forward to more books in the series.  My only complaint about it was the location names.  More times than not, I found myself going, “Ugh.  Really?”  But that was my only real complaint.  Bishop has a way of making me invested in her characters.  I also liked her treatment of the usual “other” tropes: vampires, werewolves, etc.

This is more realistic fantasy than her other books, and I thought that was an interesting change for her.  If you’re not big on the usual fantasy books, consider giving this series a go.

Recommend It Monday–Delusion in Death by J.D. Robb

Now that my insane semester is over, I can finally get the blog back on track.  I read Delusion in Death by J.D. Robb for today’s RIM.  I’ve mentioned before that I’m a borderline Robb/Nora Roberts fangirl and I’m not ashamed to admit it.  Anyone who can keep me interested in a series for 30+ books deserves it.

As usual, this book doesn’t disappoint.  The characters, in my opinion, make this series.

Eve has been making personal progress up to this point, and Robb gives her a setback.  She works through it, because she’s Dallas, Lieutenant Eve and that’s what she does, but I love how realistic Robb makes her.  She’s learning to trust other people on a more meaningful level, like with Dr. Mira.  She recognizes that keeping people in the dark, while more comfortable for her, isn’t fair to those people, like with Peabody.

It was also nice to see Robb do something with Peabody besides the usual.  I love Peabody, but she’s rather predictable for the most part.  In this book, we see a darker side to her, even if it’s only for a moment.  I would like to see some of her sparkle wear off in the future books.  I’d like to see her get angry with Eve.  For over 30 books, Peabody has kissed her ass because she’s the superior officer, but she’s also Peabody’s partner and that comes with a different set of dynamics.  Just once, I’d like to see Eve be Eve and have Peabody call her out on it.  That could get old really fast, but if it’s handled right, it could give Peabody some much needed dimension.

Roarke is also kind of static at this point.  If he was more important to the series, I’d have a bigger problem with that.  As it is, he’s mostly a foil for Eve.  It’s her personal growth he facilitates.  Still, he is an important facet of the series and I would like to see more dynamics with his character.  Nothing he does surprises me anymore.  Again, if not handled well, that could get old fast, but it would be interesting.

The problem with this series, if you want to consider it a problem, is that there are too many scenarios which would end the series.  If Eve got pregnant, regardless of how that pregnancy progressed (or didn’t, she’s in a violent line of work after all), it would end the series.  Someone close to her being murdered, Mavis or Peabody, Dr. and Mr. Mira, would end the series, I think.  If Eve didn’t avenge the death herself, I think Roarke would, which would put the kibosh on things.  Although, if Somerset put things right for her, she might be able  to keep things going.  Still, Somerset is an important antagonist for Eve, and she would have to kill off Mavis or Nadine (or someone similar: important to Eve personally but not critical to the series itself).  I don’t think the series could recover from losing Peabody of Mira, but that’s just my opinion.  I’d love to see the personal crisis Eve would have if she ever had to bust Roarke for wrongdoing, but that’s a series ender.  Because of course it is.

I love this series.  If Robb puts out 100 more “in Death” books, I will read every last one of them.  But I think the series is starting to stagnate.  She’s written the series into a position where doing anything new will end it, so we’re stuck between ending the series and having the characters stay in a holding pattern of sorts.  I’d almost rather see it end than have everyone go stale.  She has some wiggle room left, though.  I wonder if she’ll take it.

Recommend It Monday–Author Interview with Nate D. Burleigh

Only a few more weeks until graduation!  That means that RIM can get back to its regularly scheduled program.  In the meantime, though, author Nate D. Burleigh decided to come keep me company.

E: Hello, Nate.  Welcome to Erindipity.  I bought some new refreshments to avoid any…unpleasantness.  Would you care for some?

N: Sure, smells delish.

E: Your book is Sustenance.  What inspired you to write it and when did it come out?

N: I’ll answer you in reverse. Rainstorm Press published Sustenance for the second time on March 31st 2012. So, been out over a year now. It was originally published in the UK by a now defunct publishing company. Prior to about 5 years ago, I’ve never really written anything or even thought I could be a writer. It wasn’t until I was coaxed into writing down a story I was telling my kids one night that I actually realized I might be good at it. The story went on to be my first published work and enticed me to pull out and dust off an old autobiographical journal I started about 13 years prior while working as a tech support specialist. That journal warped into Sustenance.


E: Can you tell us a little something about it?

N: Sustenance is a supernatural thriller set in the late 80s which follows 17-year old Coert as he battles the most notorious Succubus of all time, Lilith.  Coert awakens a dormant gene during a fight with another student which leads to a visit from the shadows.  This entity begins training Coert on how to gain sustenance by draining the energy of others to feed his insatiable hunger.  While resistant to the change, Coert begins to realize that his teacher is also his savior and only chance to defeat Lilith.  Sustenance draws in readers of every genre, satisfying their need, while offering a dynamic story of love, sacrifice and a twisted rite of passage.

E: What are you currently working on?

N: I’ve just finished my second novel Progeny‘s final edit and am waiting on the Art Work. While I’m waiting on that, I’ve been polishing up the manuscript for my third novel, The First. Both are supernatural thrillers. Progeny has a Sci-Fi component to it and The First is Horror. Also beginning to work on my Young Adult series, Elfen.

E: Who are your biggest influences?

N: The usual suspects, Double K’s (King, Koontze), Ann Rice, Laurel K. Hamilton, Tolkien.

E: Are you strictly a horror writer, or have you written in other genres?

N: I consider myself a Speculative Fiction Author who specializes in horror. My passion is the supernatural creatures. Not so much ghosts.

E: If any of your stories could be made into a film, which one would it be and who would you cast as the leads?

N: That’s a tough one. I’d like all of them to become movies, but Progeny has the big Summer blockbuster action. I’d cast Angelina Jolie as the mother and have to find a bunch of young unknowns for some of the kids. Would love the evil brothers to be played by some well known character actors. Maybe Ed Lauter, Tim Curry, and James Cromwell.   

E: Any parting advice for people who are just starting out?

N: Keep to it. Remember, writing almost always has an audience. But you won’t find that audience unless you get your stuff out there for others to read. I recommend writing communities like They are a great way to get your work critiqued. 

Nate can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and on his website.

Recommend It Monday–Interview with Author Brent Kelley

Today I was lucky enough to chat with author Brent Kelley when he popped in for cookies.

This is Brent.

This is Brent.

E: So, Brent.  Welcome to Erindipity.  Lori Michelle ate all my cookies when she was here last week.  Can I offer you a half-eaten donut instead?

B: No cookies? I was told cookies. I don’t know if this is going to work out. All right, fine. Let’s see the half-eaten donut. Ooh, it looks like a jelly! Wait a second. The jelly’s been sucked out of this half! I’m outta here. Whoa, take it easy! You don’t need that… Look, I’m sitting down. See? Just put down the crossbow.

E: Your book is called Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater. Where did you get the idea for your book and what was your writing process like?  Did you have a rough outline of what you thought would happen, or did you decide to see where it took you?

+Chuggie Cover

B: Years back, when I was still in college, I beseeched the cosmos to send me a muse. I was hoping for a pretty lady in skimpy clothes, but I got Chuggie. I was an art major at UW-Stout, so I spent more time drawing him than writing about him. I started scribbling tiny scenes with Chuggie, but I didn’t have any direction. After college, I realized I was working on a book. My girlfriend Keri (who is now my wife) lived about 3 hours from me. Driving to see her on the weekends, I always traveled with my voice recorder (whose name is Booster). So Booster and I would cross through the Wisconsin countryside, and I’d tell him about Chuggie. Eventually, a real story unfolded, but I’d never written a book before. Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater took around a decade. No outline, just me jabbering into a voice recorder along Highway 64. I didn’t know how to write good back then, though. Critiques and workshops! Now I can write a little good. And the second book took far less time.

E: You have a blurb from Piers Anthony on your Amazon page. How did that come about?

B: I contacted Piers through his web page, and his staff gave him my message. I got very lucky with the timing, and he was able to fit Chuggie into his reading stack. He reminded me that he wasn’t guaranteeing a positive blurb, just his honest thoughts on my book. I was driving with my wife one night when my pocket started to vibrate. I pulled out my phone and handed it to Keri. She says “It’s from Piers Anthony.” So I says, “Read it! … No! Don’t read it!” In the end, Piers liked Chuggie’s first adventure, and we got some great quotes for the back cover. Piers Anthony is such a cool guy!

E: The book is from Omnium Gatherum Media.  What has your experience with them been like?

B: Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but my experience with Omnium Gatherum has been a nightmare. And by “nightmare”, I mean Super Action Happy Fun Time! As with the Piers Anthony blurb, I feel pretty lucky to have gotten in with Omnium Gatherum. Chief Editor Kate Jonez is wonderful to work with. Her editing has really helped me elevate my craft. She’s got a great eye for talent, too, so OG has a whole cavalcade of kickass books. Publishing alongside the other OG authors is really an honor. Someday we’re all going to unite for an Omnium Gatherum Gathering. When we last discussed it, we agreed it should take place at a haunted insane asylum. I just worry that fellow OG authors Ennis Drake and Dean Harrison are going to get me into trouble at the Gathering. I’ll have to bring my A-game, that’s for damn sure.

E: If I understand correctly, this is the first book in a series.  Can you tell us when the next book will be available?

B: Yes, Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater is book #1 of a bunch. It was published in November of 2011. It follows the perpetually-intoxicated embodiment of drought, aka Chuggie. Ol’ Chuggers is a loose-talkin’, junk sellin’ drifter, and he stumbles upon the remote city of Stagwater. There he gets stuck between various vile forces vying for control of the town. The next book, Chuggie and the Bleeding Gateways, is due for release in May of 2013.

E: What can you tell us about it?

B: I can tell you it’s going to be GLORIOUS! It picks up with Chuggie just a few days after the events in Desecration of Stagwater. Chuggie’s got some work to do and people to find. His recently acquired bone dagger, the Bleeding Jaws of Glughu, has some secrets to reveal. The Steel Jacks are becoming increasingly interested in Chuggie’s activities. If you don’t know, Steel Jacks are these energy creatures that live in 8’ metal suits. They came from another world through a rift, and they’re stuck on Mag Mell (Chuggie’s world). There’ll be monsters aplenty in Bleeding Gateways. There’ll be booze, babes, mayhem. All the good stuff. And plenty of Chuggie’s drunken ranting about people he knew or events that may or may not have actually taken place.

E: What authors have you been influenced by?

B: In a lot of ways, Chuggie is a response to Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. Other authors who influence me are folks like Frank Herbert, Hunter S. Thompson, Terence McKenna, Douglas Adams, and Robert E. Howard. I’m a fan of Warhammer 40k. Of course, Mr. Piers Anthony is another. There’s a graphic novel series called Requiem: Vampire Knight that blows me away – done by Pat Mills and Oliver LeDroit. So, from that list, you can get an idea where I’m taking Chuggie. His stories are meant to be nightmarish, gruesome, and profane… but also funny, whimsical, and reverent. All with cosmic resonance. The biggest influence of all, when it comes to Chuggie, is the musical artist known as Tom Waits. In his live shows, he’ll stop between songs and tell these wild stories in his gravel voice. You can find that on YouTube. If they ever make it into a movie, I’d want Tom Waits to play Chuggie.

E: Before you go, what one piece of advice can you give aspiring writers that you wish someone had given you?

B: I wish someone would have told me to shave my head and grow a beard as early as 2004. I was good looking back then, sure. Nobody’s denying that. But I’m GREAT looking now, and I owe it all to shaving my head and growing a beard! As far as writing goes, I’m no expert, but I know a little bit. I advise aspiring writers to get involved with other writers. Try one or more of these: workshops, critique groups, writing forums. Make friends with other writers of all levels. We all have a lot to learn from each other, and you never know how important those connections will end up being.

Thanks a lot for stopping by, Brent.  Oh, and there’s no hard feelings about the crossbow, right?  Brent’s on Facebook, Twitter, and on the web.

Recommend It Monday–Goddess’s Choice by Jamie Marchant

Jamie Marchant stopped by and asked me to review her book, The Goddess’s Choice, for RIM.  It’s fantasy, and who doesn’t love fantasy, so I said, “Sure!  Shoot me a copy and I’ll give it a read.”  She sent me a copy and I settled in to read.  The book is based on the Norwegian fairy tale “The Princess and the Glass Hill.”

Overall, this was a rather entertaining read.  There were some flaws, however, both in craft and basic nuts and bolts.  For the ebook version (I have a Nook Tablet), the formatting was all over the place.  Since it was an entertaining read, I’m won’t consider that a deal breaker.  It was pretty disctracting, though.  I do not know if the paperback version of the book has the same formatting issues.  I also found a typo or two while I was reading.  I’m a bit less forgiving on that point.  For craft, the first chapter went out of its way to make sure you knew that everyone considered Robbie a demon.  It was a bit heavy handed.  Also, the book makes a big deal out of Solar keeping the peace between the joined kingdoms, but we really don’t get a lot of why that matters.  I’d let it go, but there are several places where the importance of maintaining the peace is mentioned.  In fact, the bulk of the story revolves around Samantha refusing to marry the court suitors, which she needs to do to help maintain the peace.  It would have been nice to find out some of that history.  Oh well, moving on to the good stuff.

I liked that Samantha was an aurora and Robbie was an amihealer.  I enjoyed the way those abilities complicated the story for the characters.  I thought the divide within the Church of Sulis was very well done.  I had not heard of the fairy tale she based the story on prior to reading the book, and I don’t think you really need to.  The elements don’t need the tale to justify them being in the story.  If you are familiar with the tale, you will definitely recognize the elements from it that Marchant incorprates.  The story was paced well, and there is a good mix of romance with action.  There are some rather graphic scenes, so there’s that.  I’m not off-put by them, but if you’re considering letting a younger person read it…well, perhaps you should reconsider that.  I did appreciate that the graphic nature of the scenes accomplish a purpose beyond just being graphic.  Duke Argblutal is a very bad man and these scenes do a good job of showing that.  The one thing I had a very big problem with was when Samantha was hearing about Captain Tremayne and how he raped a young woman.  I think it was the woman’s father who exclaims that it’s an experience worse than death and the author has Samantha thinking it was no such thing.  Bad move.  For some women, death would be far kinder than the hell they’ve experienced at the hands of a rapist and for the author to not only suggest otherwise, but to do it from the strong female heroine, is inexcusable.

So, there you have it.  Beyond the one major gaffe, the story is an entertaining read.  I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.  I’d give it 4 out of 5 without the rape apologist comment.  This is book one in a series of books, so I’m hoping that the future books will be better proofread and better formatted.  Also, leave the rape apologetics at home.

Recommend It Monday–Mistresses of the Macabre

Today on Recommend It Monday, I read Mistresses of the Macabre, edited by Lori Michelle.  This all-female collection offered a wide range of stories, from a hand that won’t obey to a battered housewife who is saved by a giant spider.

First, the introduction by Angel Leigh McCoy was fabulous.  If I had to say what the strongest portion of the collection was, it was hands-down the intro.  It was smart and full of sobering statistics.  My favorite story out of the 18 was “Playdate.”  It was very short, and that made me sad, but I loved the premise of it, and I think it was really well done.  The stories, for the most part were more unsettling than anything.  “Out with the Old” read a lot like the movie, The Skeleton Key, starring Kate Hudson, only for one person instead of a couple.  Had I not seen the movie, I probably would have loved that story as well.  It’s a relatively fast read.  The stories range from very short to moderate length.

I love the concept of an all-female collection like this.  On a scale of 1 to 5, I’d give the overall collection a 3.  There were some great spots in it, but there were other spots that really didn’t do it for me.  Maybe you’ll disagree.  Give it a read and let me know your thoughts on it.


Recommend It Monday–Out to Lunch

This image is not intended for commercial use.

This image is not intended for commercial use.

As I mentioned last week, RIM is on vacation today.  I’ll be back next Monday, though.  Spring Break is this week, so I’m looking forward to the time off.  I finished my Othello paper last week, so I only have my Chaucer paper to write.  I have some miscellaneous items to finish up through the week, but mostly, I have the time to catch up on rest and reading.  If you have not yet done so, why not join me over at the IU-South Bend Creative Writing Club for some writing prompts?  We’re getting some great stuff posted.  I’ll be posting today’s prompt in a bit.

Some good news: I had a company contact me for a position today.  I’m a little sad I won’t be able to take it because it sounded really interesting.  It would mean relocating, though, and I have grad school here, so that’s not going to work.  Still, they came to me so I’m pretty happy about that.

I should have an empty house which means I might even get some writing done.  I still have work this week, but it’ll be a lot easier without classes after.

Hope the weather is turning sunnier and warmer wherever you are and have a Happy Monday!

Recommend It Monday–A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

I’m running behind…again.  It’s midterm week, and I have papers and exams to get ready for, so my pleasure reading has had to take a back seat for a bit.  The good news is I’m about halfway through.

The second installment of A Song of Ice and Fire is so far carrying its own.  We have the addition of Davros, the onion knight, in this book and I’ll admit when I get to his chapters I forget who he is for a minute.  It doesn’t take me long to remember, though, but it is a bit jarring.  There are a lot of new people in this book, in addition to everyone from the last book.  At this point, I’d be terrified to see Martin’s writing space.  Just thinking about keeping track of all these different families makes my head spin.

Something I appreciate about Martin’s writing is that he writes about the less glamorous parts of life, like going to the loo.  I don’t appreciate this because I’m some weirdo with a bathroom fetish.  For one thing, it adds realism to the story.  There are some fantastical elements to the series (which makes it awesome) but the ultra realism helps to ground the story.  For another, this very real, very unglamorous part of life causes some serious issues for Arya, who is trying to pass as a boy.  Yoren tells her that half would realize who she was and turn her in.  The other half would rape her, then turn her in.  This is a harsh piece of realism that I appreciate even as I am saddened by it.  I can appreciate it because I can identify with it, and in turn it helps me to identify with Arya.  For as long as there have been women, there has been the specter of rape looming over them, but it saddens me that even in an altered reality, the women still need to fear this specter.

I may be putting RIM on hold for next week.  I’ve got a paper on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and a paper on Shakespeare’s Othello to write and a midterm to take.  I won’t have time to do all of that, finish my book, and start and finish a new book.  I’ll do my best, though.

Recommend It Monday–Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Happy Monday!  Ok, who am I kidding?  Those words never belong in the same sentence, let alone be their own sentence.  Still, it is Monday, so what can you do?  I should mention that this post contains some spoilers.  If you are concerned about spoilers, you should probably stop here.

Last week, I mentioned that I would begin Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.  I did not begin it; I devoured it.  It’s hard for me to find large periods of time to just sit and pleasure read, but I found myself making the time for this book.  I was hooked from the first few pages.  So much so, that I am going well out of my way to make a trip to the library today for the next book in the series.  The story line is great, but you can have a great story and still end up with a crappy book.  These are some of the reasons why Martin ends up with a fantastic book.

  1. The Characters–I would have loved to see Martin’s work space while he was writing this first book.  There are a million characters in it.  I exaggerate, but not by much.  I had been warned before I ever started with this book that there were a lot of people to keep track of, but I really didn’t have too much trouble with it.  To me, that means that Martin took extra care to keep all his characters straight for the writing process.  He has a firm grasp on all these people, so he can write about them in a way that is clear and easy (for me, at any rate) to keep track of.  I was also thrilled with the complexity of his characters.  There were only a few people that I hated outright (Cersei, Jaime, Gregor) and very few people that I loved outright (Arya, Bran).  Everyone else had this wonderful shading to them.  Catelyn, for example, was a character that I mostly loved, but then she was a total hag to Jon and that made me mad.  Then there were people who were mostly douchebags, like the Hound, but then they showed something that didn’t make them 100% horrible.  One place in particular was with Sansa after Joffrey becomes king.  He’s kind to her in a rather cold, fatalistic sort of way.  It’s just enough to give you pause.  I have something to aspire to with my own character writing.
  2. The Chapters–I really appreciate the different chapter breakdowns that Martin gives the reader.  There are so many people to worry about that it would be very easy to forget things about them, and forget their own subplots.  Martin breaks down the chapters so a different character is the focus of it.  You could get the same plot point from three different perspectives, each one advancing the plot, like a literary relay race.  For example, once Eddard Stark is imprisoned, you might get his perspective, then Arya’s later on, and then Sansa’s later still.  This is especially wonderful because you not only jump from male to female perspective, but from adult to child.
  3. The Subplots–Sometimes, writers will add in subplots as a “beside the point” feature.  They have nothing, really, to do with the main plot, but they give more depth and richness to the characters.  The thing that makes me feel insignificant and small as a writer is that Martin’s subplots almost always seem to advance the main plot in some way.  As I was reading, I kept imagining this world of Westeros as a complicated house of dominoes.  One domino falls here, one way over there, and they start the chain from the bottom as the main plot starts it from the top and before you know it the entire thing is imploding with you in the middle of it.
  4. The Women–Martin gives us some rather strong female characters.  They’re not all strong.  I spent most of the book wanting to smother Sansa with a pillow (I’m sure Arya would have held her down).  I have no use for her, and I’m told I’ll have less use for her as the series progresses.  Oh, goody.  But that’s part of what makes the book great.  Then, we have Arya.  She’s learning blade skills, she thinks for herself (even if she’s not always making the best choices), and she has a strength her sister lacks.  She’s not perfect by any means, but I love her completely.  I’d probably ground her for life if she were my own daughter, but she’s not.  I love that one of the deadliest bad guys is a woman.  As much as I despise Cersei, she is a bad ass.  Sure, there are a lot of people you need to watch out for, but the one I would always keep my eyes on is her.  Catelyn lets us watch her struggle with her weaknesses in order to be strong.  The Lady of Winterfell battles with the mother of Robb.  She does what she needs to do for her son even though it takes its toll on her personally.  Unlike her sister, Lysa, who does what’s best for her and turns her son into an insufferable budding sociopath in the process.  Catelyn and Lysa contrast true strength and false strength.  Catelyn is in a battlefield, exposed to all the dangers and having her action or inaction potentially affecting the outcome of the battles they fight.  Lysa has the strength of the Eyrie and not much else.  She has bravado because she believes her stronghold is impregnable.  Without her walls and without an enemy on her doorstep, she has no risk to her bravery (She should be medicated, if you ask me.  Cersei is cunning-scary.  Lysa is psycho-scary.).  There is no static female characterization to this first book, and I really appreciate that.

I watched the first episode of Game of Thrones from HBO to see how close it was to the book.  I have to say I was impressed for the most part.  All of the child characters are older in the show, and I can understand how difficult it would be to work with children as young as the ones in the book, but their advanced ages took something away from the story.  There’s something more urgent for me in a 7 year old Bran getting shoved out of a window than in a 10 year old.  There’s something more desperate about an 11 year old Sansa getting betrothed to the Crown Prince than there is a 13 year old.  Still, the first episode did an excellent job setting up the show according to the book.

For next week’s blog, I thought I would take a poll.  You can vote only once, and make sure you share!

Recommend It Monday–Falling Behind

17-hmeI’ve been reading Servant of the Bones by Anne Rice since my last post.  I should mention here that this is the first book I’ve read by Rice, although I am aware of several books by her.  I just haven’t read them.  It’s not that the book is bad.  It has some fabulously rich descriptions and all of the backstory is interesting.

Of course, Azriel is perfection on two legs, so that doesn’t hurt either.  It just doesn’t grab my attention.  I can read it for about 30 minutes at a time, and then I get bored and look for something else to do.  I’m not invested in Azriel.  It’s unfortunate that he was basically boiled to death in a vat of melted gold like some sort of man-soup, and while I can readily agree that that would suck, I don’t really care.  I realize that makes me sound horrible, but there you have it.  It really bothers me not to finish a book once I’ve started it, so I would really like to finish it.  I may give up on this one, though, so I can move on with my list.

On my latest trip to the library, I picked up Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.  I’ve been told by several people I should be reading this book, so I’m pretty hopeful.  Fantasy is my go-to genre, though.  It’s my first choice to read when I have a choice, so I’m cautiously optimistic about it.  I really hope it’s one of those books that grabs me.

I would really like to be able to start reading some of my Rainstorm Press authors.  They have some amazing sounding books out.

Recommend It Monday–Servant of the Bones by Anne Rice and Celebrity in Death by J.D. Robb

I have started Servant of the Bones by Anne Rice, but I’m not finished with it yet.  I blame my academic schedule.  So far, I’m enjoying it.  I’d like to have it finished by Wednesday or so, depending on how much homework I get saddled with tomorrow.

I did finish Celebrity in Death by J.D. Robb, though.  It is the 34th “In Death” novel I’ve read, and I have to tell you, I’m not going to tire of them anytime soon.  Delusion in Death is the next one on my list and Robb has Calculated in Death coming out sometime this month, if it’s not out already.  I really, really, really hope they never make a movie of this series (and one was in development previously but has been dropped at this time) because they will screw it up.  They always do.  The movies never capture the magic of the books, and sometimes that’s ok, but sometimes you end up with Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers with me sitting in the middle of the theater in full-on nerdrage, spittle flying, all but screaming, “That didn’t happen.  That didn’t happen.  They didn’t have to convince the Ents of anything! WHERE THE <expletive> DID THOSE ELVES COME FROM?!?!?!”  If you were in that showing, I apologize.  It would end up like Sahara by Clive Cussler: great book, mediocre movie.