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Monday, January 30, 2012

To Review or Not to Review...

This is my actual book shelf. Pretty soon I will have just as my books in my Kindle!

...That is the question that I pose to you, Fire Enthusiasts.

Greetings. I do not have a book review for you this week. Well, that is not entirely accurate. You see, I did complete a book this week and begin another; however, I have no plans to share anything about it with you here. Why am I being such a tease, you ask? It is because I thought that the book was merely only okay.

It would not be difficult for you to figure out which book I am referring to. We are all on many of the same sites, are we not? It would probably only take you a few moments to discover which book I'm referring to, but I hope that you won't actually attempt to figure it out. I would rather that you find the book and like it or not like it all on your own. The book didn't suck! Many of you might actually like it, and by all accounts, many have thought highly of it. I just thought it was a bit of a miss.

So, what's the big deal, you ask? The big deal is that although I do not really know the gentleman, I know of him. He's like me, and he's like many of you as well. No doubt he dreamt a lot about being a writer, and probably spent a lot of time dreaming up that book. He researched, outlined, wrote, rewrote, revised, edited and is now hard at work promoting the hell out of it, much like all of us. Knowing what I know about that whole process, I just don't feel the overwhelming urge to do anything but reach out and shake that man's hand, pat him on the back and wish him well.

I have one book written, and although it has received some pretty sweet reviews, I am quite certain that there are more than a few people who probably think I might be better off working my 11-12 hour day job and spending the rest of my evening watching television. *laughs* I also have my second book in the editing stages, as you know. Lastly, I started writing my third novel during Christmas vacation when that much publicized cold (read: whining blogs/Tweets) had begun to dissipate. I'll want lots of people to read all three of those books when they are all on a shelf together one day, virtual or otherwise, and not have someone go all negative on me.

Is that why I chose not to review that book, because of Karma? Absolutely not. I may write horror and listen to classic rock and 80's and 90's heavy metal on volume 20, but I also love to be moved by my books, movies and music. That means I have to have some feelings within me. And it is because of those feelings that I chose to be respectful and simply leave an "okay" review on one of the book social networks.

I want that author to keep writing, to keep perfecting his craft, regardless of what this guy thinks. What do you folks think? Should I have been respectful, but also specific? I know that some have gotten into it on the Internet due to negative reviews. I don't want any part of that. Probably no one does. Should I simply have pretended to "forget" that I had ever read that book and leave the reviewing to others?

What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear them.

Before I go, let's forgive Blogger together, cross our collective fingers and hope that you're able to leave a comment. I know things haven't been great in that regard, especially this past week. If you do have issues, you can always drop me a quick line on FB or Twitter. Sometimes that's much easier anyway.

We'll talk soon.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Books, Reviews and Giveaways

Hello there, Fire Enthusiasts. How are things? I am well once again. I am no longer irritating everyone around me with a perpetual clearing of the throat. Thanks for asking. Actually I do want to thank everyone for their kind notes, whether here or on any of the other social networks, I certainly appreciate anytime I am mentioned, especially when folks are asking how I’m doing.

Today, I have come to you to speak about other people's books. I managed to get two novels read since the last time that we spoke. Before I get to them, I want to tell you about some e-books that we are giving away at Kings River Life Magazine.

Many of you may know that I write magazine articles for an E-zine from my neck of the woods. I do one about once a month, and they range from local events in my town to restaurant reviews to pet rescues. This week, on the advice of my fearless Editor-in-Chief, we took a look at the state of publishing and some of the great writers that are out there, myself excluded. She didn't ask me to stay out of it, I just chose to. This was not so much about me, although my writing has certainly benefited from the exciting times that we live in. Instead, I just wanted to celebrate and feature several of the great voices that I have discovered and reviewed in these pages. You no doubt will recall Carole Gill, Erin Cole, Marissa Farrar, Lorelei Bell and Phil Tucker. If you have yet to read their works, visit the magazine with the above link and enter for a chance to win an e-book.

Author Coral Russell and Amador Lockdown.

If you like ghost stories or ghost hunters, then this will be right up your alley. It is the interesting take on ghost hunting and what could happen when you fool around with that sort of thing.

Here’s the official blurb:

Something has moved into the Amador Hotel. Hector, Marcos, Bev, and Tony of the Paranormal Posse are called in to either debunk the haunting or get rid of whatever is causing the problems. With the surprise arrival of Hector's son, he tries to keep his professional and personal lives separate, but whatever is haunting the Amador Hotel has other plans.

I found the story to be well done. It takes place in the American south-west and is heavily flavored with Hispanic references, including language, food and culture. I found that to be a nice change and well thought out, adding a nice spice to an already interesting ghost story. You will also get the perspective of the ghosts in the plot, which I liked. It is given in small bites, so if you find yourself not quite catching on, just give it time.

Being that I knew very little of the actual work of ghost hunters, I found it intriguing to see that there is more than simply walking around “haunted places”. We get to see them giving tours, doing research and speaking to witnesses, using expensive equipment and eventually doing a lockdown where they and several others spent the night. That last decision might have been a bad one, but you'll have to find that out for yourselves.

The story takes a left turn at the end which was quite a different payoff. We go quickly from hunters to questions of possession, where the material takes a very dramatic twist, making Amador Lockdown well worth your time.

Author Greg Sisco and Thicker Than Water.
Welcome to the Greg Sisco channel! *laughs* Having just read One Night Stan’s, which I’m still buzzing about, I went right to his take on vampires, which was the original book that caught my attention to the work this incredible author is doing in the first place. Little did I know!

Sisco has informed me that he has many things going on for this year, but nothing else for me to read at the moment. That’s for those of you who might start worrying that I have become infatuated with his writing. Well, let me tell you that there’s a reason why I immediately launched into his other novel just as soon as I had finished Stan’s, and that it only took me about two days to finish. He’s that frigging good.

Here's the synopsis:

Tyr and Loki are not your teenage sister’s vampires. Their skin is not covered in glitter. They do not drink the blood of possums instead of humans. They view humanity as a secondary species; they have mastered the skill of manipulating and seducing women; and if you find yourself in a room with them, don’t expect the opportunity to say goodbye to your loved ones.

Since the Crusades, the Blood Brothers have waged war on all things wholesome. They have terrorized mankind with their hedonistic and brutal theatrics every night for a thousand years.

Thicker Than Water, the first novel in the Blood Brothers series, spans from Tombstone, Arizona in 1893 to Las Vegas, Nevada in 1999. After Tyr sparks a feud with his domineering brother by impaling him to a wall and abandoning their relationship, a story unfolds weaving together vampires, brothel owners, gunmen, prostitutes, and buckets of innocent blood in a twisted orgy of sex, murder, revenge, romance, betrayal, and brotherly love.

Once again, it isn't necessarily the subject matter that drives my appreciation for what this author is doing, but the exceptional writing. When it's this good it really doesn't matter what the story is. That was my problem with Stan's. I didn't want to know about strip clubs nor did I have any business in one. Once I got that first "taste" of the place; however, I just couldn't walk away. You may find yourself tired of vampires, or perhaps you don't like the subject at all. I guarantee you'll like this; it isn't what you're used to.

A few specific thoughts:

Many readers take issue with flashback scenes, but in this case, I doubt anyone will even notice. They are handled in a timely and well thought out manner, as if in the hands of a master. The plot takes us back and forth from there to present day as if it were a symphony, building towards its ultimate crescendo. Thankfully, the story does not end here, but simply takes a breath, pausing as we prepare ourselves for the next movement in the Blood Brothers series.

Another moment of brilliance occurs as we "see" the best human to vampire transformation I have ever experienced, but I don't want to give anything away. You're going to have to trust me on this one.

On that note, much of the thrill of this story has to do with the reveals. They are not the biggest surprises known to man; however, the plot unfolds in such a way that you may find yourself not thinking ahead, but giving every sight, smell and texture its opportunity to do its work and transport you there. 

Last year, the author put up a blog post where he said that he wanted to return vampires to where they rightfully belonged. I can assure you that he has done that in spades. I’m serious folks! As the author himself warns, these are not your teenage sister's vampires. The baton that was brought to us by Bram Stoker, handed over for a fabulous reinvention by Anne Rice, now comes through the murky waters of the vampire romance sub genre, held clean and high overhead by Greg Sisco.

We'll talk soon.

Monday, January 16, 2012

An R-Rated Kind of Week

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. I come to you in much better health than I have these past few weeks. The fever and ill feeling are a distant memory, but when my allergies kick in, as they did during the holidays, I usually drive everyone around me crazy for weeks by clearing my throat incessantly. *clears throat*

I wish I could say that I was glad to be back at work this past week, after having those two weeks off at Christmas. Yes, I know; few are usually pleased about being back at work. What I mean by that, however, is my partner at work was transferred, leaving me alone, just as I was the week before Christmas (which contributed to me running myself into the ground). I supervise the Packaging Floor at Sun-Maid Raisin Growers of California, as many of you know. What used to be an 11 hour day is now 12 thanks to this move. I have to be in the office by 3:30 am, since there is so much that needs to get done, and it's all on me now. 120 plus employees, few moments of peace and every cell phone call come to me. *sigh*

The reason that I tell you this is due to the fact that it just makes everything that I am attempting to juggle that much more difficult. I'm working on my third novel, but haven't touched it since my vacation ended. I'm saving several blogs to visit each and every day in my e-mail, but spent all my free time trying to clear through them. Although I had a few things to promote this week, I did very little due to time constraints.

There has been some good news, as my publisher informed me that I should expect the edits on Dance on Fire: Flash Point at any moment. Just that alone will make 2012 a year to remember, and I can't wait to share my sequel with you.

In spite of having very little time, I did manage to get some reading done. I want very much to tell you about it; however, the material is as R-Rated as it could possibly be, so if this is not your cup of tea, I'll just see you next week...

As I was saying, for those of you still with me, I just finished reading a marvelous crime drama by Author Greg Sisco. It is entitled One Night Stan’s and when this incredible piece of fiction is turned into a film (as it surely must be), some things will probably need to be scaled back in order to avoid the dreaded NC-17 rating. It is very good; however, it does contain the roughest language imaginable, mutilation, murder, mayhem and is rampant with sexual situations.

One might ask, why in the world did I read such a novel? What originally caught my attention from this author is a novel about vampires that has a great eye-catching cover, entitled, Thicker Than Water. I'll be reading it very soon, if not next; however, before having an opportunity to read it, I noticed a teaser chapter of Stan’s that he posted and, although that harsh first chapter pretty much epitomizes the entire book, I found myself sucked in by the excellent and often-times brilliant writing.

Now that you have been duly warned, let’s get to the material. As I often do, I will let the author set up his own novel:

Welcome to Scud City, the worst town in America.

The kind of town where when a suitcase packed with money goes missing, college dimwits, punk rockers, a crooked FBI agent, a serial killer, a stripper addicted to torturing men, an un-killable Russian, and a nightclub owner who thinks he’s Frank Sinatra all find themselves in a twisted web of sex, murder, and drugs in pursuit of a nest egg none of them deserve.

And welcome to One-Night Stan’s, the worst strip club in Scud City. Where the floors are linoleum, the air is cigarette smoke, and the night ain’t over till somebody’s a corpse.

Kicking off at sunset and ending at sunrise, One-Night Stan’s is brutal anarchic fun packed with savage violence, anonymous sex, and all those other things nice people don’t laugh at.

Like most people, I’m a sucker for action films. I'm just usually not one for gangster stories or crime dramas. Yet, when the writing is this good, I just have trouble saying no. Though quite graphic, I simply couldn’t stay away. I had to know how it ended.

Taking place over the course of one long and brutal night, One Night Stan’s takes a hard look at the underbelly of a place called Scud City. It contains more villains than one can keep track of, but then in Scud City, there are few innocents. There are no loose plot ends neglected; incredible characters that are so believable that you'll find yourself ducking behind or fleeing altogether; and dialogue that you will not question.

The story is extremely rough, but, if you can stomach it, one of the most amazing stories I have run across in a very long time. It is far from predictable and I dare you to try and anticipate what comes at each and every turn. In fact, forget it! Just sit back and be blown away as I was!

As I mentioned, when this incredible tour de force is turned into a film, just imagine a screenplay written by the brilliant Aaron Sorkin (West Wing, A Few Good Men, The Social Network), directed by Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas, The Departed, Shutter Island, ) and you very well might have an idea of what you will find right now on paper should you venture to the area in and around Greg Sisco’s One Night Stan’s.

We'll talk soon.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Back at Work

Greetings, Fire Enthusiasts. As always, it is very good to see you... Hmm? Yes, I can see you there. See. *waves* You look great, by the way.

Wow! That wasn't creepy, was it? Practically everyone's got one of those cameras now, so you never know if someone really is staring back at you. I promise that I'm not. In fact, that was what I was trying to tell you. If you're reading this, then that means that it is a new week, second week of January, and I am back to work. Two glorious weeks off and I was sick! Sad, isn't it? Oh, well. There's no use crying about it. My allergies kicked in, as you probably already know. That was Christmas evening. Soon the fever hit, knocking me to the couch for days. I got a lot of dvds watched, but not a whole lot of writing done until week two. You would have thought that I might have caught up on blogging at least, but for several days I couldn't seem to keep too many cognitive thoughts together. So, no; not really.

Actually, I did manage to get some blogging done, and hopefully, many of you noticed me hanging around. I have been putting into practice what I learned at the tail end of last year, which was how much more efficient it is to have posts actually delivered to my e-mail. Now I no longer have to go hunting through time lines, looking for points of interest. Of course, now every time I check my my e-mail I end up having 50 new messages! *laughs* The good news is I can easily manage all of that. Since I can't visit 20 sites a day (certainly not while I'm back to work), I simply visit the posts that speak to me, or perhaps ones where I feel guilt for not having visited in a long while.

When I did feel better, especially during the second week, I began getting up at 7:00 am and hitting trusty laptop while the house was still very quiet for a few hours. While we're waiting for those edits to come in on Dance on Fire: Flash Point, I have set the vampires aside for a while while I work on something to do with ghosts. I have mentioned it before, but I have always wanted to tackle the subject, and things seem to have aligned wonderfully for this to be my next project. I managed to get about 10,000 words done, plus a bunch of research, so we'll see how it goes. For the most part the book is writing itself.

Lastly, I did manage to get a little reading done, too. Last week, I reviewed books by Red Tash and Jerry McKinney. This week, Author Erin Cole's Grave Echoes.

As Amazon's synopsis reads, "The nightmare is real…Kate Waters suffers from narcoleptic hallucinations, which recently involve her unreachable sister, Jev, and a mysterious key. When Kate receives the terrible news concerning Jev's fatal car accident and acquires the strange key from her visions, she unlocks her sister's world of perilous secrets involving witchcraft, poltergeist, and a heartless killer determined to get back what is his. The danger lies in whom to trust.Terrifying paranormal encounters, a trailing wolf, and an attempted murder of one of Jev's friends, forces Kate to turn to the one she fears most, the priestess of Jev's coven, Thea. She challenges Kate's beliefs and provides her vital clues about her sister's murder, but will Kate overcome her fears before anyone else dies? To do so, she will have to trust in a world where the possibilities are unbelievable and the consequences are deadly."

Cole does a masterful job of pairing a paranormal ghost story with a good old-fashioned whodunit. Her protagonist Kate finds herself surrounded by ghosts, a fine mystery and enough potential candidates for our unidentified subject responsible for her sister's death than we can shake a witch's broom at. When I read, I tend to fly through a novel in hope, not of deciphering the mystery, so much as simply enjoying the ride. Perhaps some of you might pace yourself, endeavoring to attempt to solve the puzzle before Kate does. Good luck. Cole does a great job of dangling enough circumstantial evidence and red herrings about that, if you're anything like me, will find yourself convinced of guilt from nearly every character in this novel at one point or another.

I have read quite a few paranormals as well as a few mysteries in my adult life; however, this very well may have been the first time that I have seen the two joined. I worried at one point that the paranormal was going to take a hard left turn toward the end, but that did not prove to be the case. At it's heart, this story is definitely a mystery. There just happens to be enough of the ghosts and dark magic to keep the paranormal fans interested, all the while taking the reader along for a well-written, well constructed and well-plotted ride.

One last thing. Today is the 68th birthday of guitarist, song-writer, producer and Led Zeppelin founder, James Patrick Page. I was a late-bloomer when it came to rock music, missing out on the mighty Zep until introduced at Live-Aid in 1985. After that, I immersed myself in their music and never looked back. They are my all-time favorite band. Because of that, while in high school, many of my friends called me Jimmy Page. One or more still do, all of these years later. So hilarious!

Happy Birthday, Jimmy. Long live the king!
We'll talk soon.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Couple of Reviews

Happy New Year, Fire Enthusiasts!

I'm currently on a two week vacation from work, as some of you may know. It came at a good time, since I ended up catching that cold that many of you were sweet enough to offer well-wishes for. I particularly enjoyed reading your medicinal concoctions from the top shelf which promised to get me back on my feet. Bless all of you for both, my dear friends.

You'll be happy to know that I did, indeed, sleep a lot and spend couch time watching dvds. I typically get 6 hours a night and maybe 7.5 on Friday night (Saturday is my one day to sleep in). When the cold hit, I slept 12 hrs. The second night I slept 11. I'm rarely cold, so when I started feeling chills on Christmas Day evening, I knew I was in trouble. Advil finally helped, but I spent a lot of time wrapped up.

Since Santa had brought me my traditional stack of movies, I caught up on both old and new films. I watched the classic Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Still love that one. I saw X-Men: First Class and came away impressed. I finally saw Cowboys & Aliens. It was a bit long, and obviously unsettling because it is so genre-bending, but otherwise good. I finally saw Spielberg's Artificial Intelligence. Still don't get that one. I love Spielberg, but there was probably a good reason why I avoided that one for so many years.

Since I didn't feel much like trying to write, seated on a stiff chair at the dining room table, when all I really wanted to do was bundle up on the couch, I did try to catch up on some reading, too. However, trying to read with itchy and watery eyes wasn't easy. I do want to thank everyone who held a contest this past fall/winter. It seems as if I won nearly every one of them. Not really, of course, but what I did win caused my TBR pile to fall over. Literally! Lol!

With that in mind, I would like to share with you a couple of recent books that I read.

The first one is from Author Red Tash and entitled This Brilliant Darkness. I found it to be a wholly captivating and imaginative short novel that incorporates elements of science fiction and horror; mixed with great pacing; gripping suspense; and smart, witty and believable dialogue. Interestingly, it is often told in short, quick paragraphs, as if reading long-form poetry.

The story revolves around a mysterious star that suddenly shows up over Bloomington, Indiana. Its appearance seems to be causing some people to hear and see things that are quite out of this world and draws them all together for some wonderful revealing. Soon, a monster shows up who watches the main characters and bides his time before he acts out some preconceived plan. The main characters begin to be given visions and manipulated as if pawns between the forces of light and darkness; of good and evil, to be more precise.

The novel was full of moments of beautiful description and nice touches that brought me fully into the story, and had me walking right beside the rich and fully developed characters. As I alluded to previously, reading these short impact paragraphs with their rapid fire poetic-like versus had me discombobulated initially; however, I soon learned to accept and even appreciate the artistic style.

The second piece that I have recently read is by Author Jerry McKinney. It is entitled Feed, and completely restores my faith in horror’s potential when it comes to the subject of vampires. I write vampires, too, so the subject is near and dear to me. My series is an attempt at crafting something new for the subgenre. McKinney’s short story does this in spades.

The story begins with the main character finding himself bitten by the woman that he followed home. She feeds him her blood and he finds himself unable to stop drinking. Soon he needs more and there things begin to move very quickly and spiral out of his control. Soon, he finds himself alone to figure it all out. He struggles with the position of being half man and half monster, and must learn to control himself and to operate safely out of the watchful eyes of society, prowling the seedy back alleys, shady parts of town and the fringe characters that he finds there.

I could say more, but really do not want to unintentially give any of the surprises away. The beauty of this tale is the fact that for the beginning I fancied it being the same old-same old. The only thing that made it different was the writing. I was totally immersed as the character struggled through his new existence. I could see the sights and smell the foul stench, of not only his haunts, but his actions. The pacing was also very well done.

The pay-off came with a twist, and man was it good! What we thought we knew was suddenly tossed out of a second-storey window where we, along with McKinney’s main character, had been peeking through. We were all duped, let me tell you.

With an unexpected twist and writing that reminded me of the best of Clive Barker, McKinney surprised me and made me an instant convert. Beware reader, Feed might mean more than you think it means.
I hope you had a very Happy New Year. If not, have one! It only just started anyway. Happy writing. Happy reading. *sniffle* I've got to get back to that couch.
We'll talk soon.