No Time To Bleed Now Available in Audio!

I’m excited to announce that my first novella, No Time To Bleed, is now available as an Audiobook!  I know quite a few of you prefer to listen to books these days.  I’ve started to supplement my own reading with the twice-daily listen to a few chapters on my way to and from work (I recently finished the latest Jack Reacher book, The Midnight Line, and just started the new Andy Weir book, Artemis).

So now you can listen to Austin Conrad’s adventures while driving, working out, or just chilling with your headphones on.  The No Time To Bleed Audiobook is priced pretty low too (only $5-$7, depending on which retailer you use), so if you use a subscription service like Audible you might be better off buying it and saving those almighty credits for the $20+ audiobooks from the big names.  So here’s the Big List of retailers you can get it at so far:

Amazon | Audible | Audiobooks | Apple | Nook | Google Play (coming soon) | Downpour | Scribd | 24symbols

Writing and publishing is a series of satisfying milestones.  Each one seems like a watershed moment:  The time you decided to start writing.  The day you finished your first book.  The day you “launched” the eBook on Amazon.  And now I can add publishing an audiobook to that list.  Like everything else I’ve done so far in this endeavor, doing the audiobook has been another great learning experience.  I already have ideas and plans for improving the next one and streamlining the process.

Lastly, I’m excited to announce that I’ll be GIVING AWAY a few FREE downloads of the No Time To Bleed audiobook.  The give-aways will be conducted on my Sharp Readers group on Facebook, so head over there and join the group if you haven’t yet (click here).  It’s a ghost town in there right now but I hope it eventually becomes an active community of readers who love thrillers and action/suspense stories as much as I do!

An Excerpt from the next Austin Conrad Novel!

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Greetings, Austin Conrad fans! Today I have a small gift for you, to thank you for your support in having read my first book, No Time To Bleed, and for your patience in waiting for the next installment in Austin’s adventures. Below is an excerpt from the next book, Blood Out, which I’m working on now and hope to have finished within a few months. Many of you have sent me comments or written in your reviews that you can’t wait to read what happens next. Hopefully this small taste will tide you over.

This passage is taken from the prologue of Blood Out. It’s actually set before the end of No Time To Bleed’s timeline, at the moment Austin Conrad hangs up on Tillman (when he spoke with him on the phone after beating up “Goatee” AKA Dice), but from the other end of that conversation. While it won’t reveal any spoilers about what happens next in the story, there are some hints. But the most interesting thing about the passage is that it fleshes out more background. We learn more about Tillman, and a little bit about Wayne Conrad, Austin’s father who died years ago. It’s a fun look into a small slice of the history of the Rattlers MC, and does a bit more table-setting for the mayhem that’s coming when the adventures in Blood Out get going in full swing!

Note that this excerpt is grabbed from the draft manuscript, its not fully edited, and some things may change before the final version in the published book. But I thought you might enjoy this sneak peak. And if you haven’t read No Time To Bleed yet, I’d recommend doing that first (although you can still enjoy this short passage by itself). No Time To Bleed is available on Amazon or through all the other eBook retailers. Or you can download it for FREE by joining my email list at this link!

I hope you enjoy it, and would love to hear your feedback on it (feel free to drop me a line with your thoughts, at dusty@dustysharp.com).

Thanks for reading, and once again Merry Christmas! Now, let’s unwrap that gift…

An Excerpt from
BLOOD OUT

Prologue

“God damn that Austin Conrad!” Tillman yelled as he flung the phone across the room.Sunny ducked as it flew past his head and struck the wall behind him, exploding into a dozen pieces and knocking a framed Easyriders magazine cover off the wall. Glass shattered as the frame struck the floor of the clubhouse

“What the fuck, boss? It’s me! You coulda took an eye out!” Sunny reached down, picked up the broken picture frame, and placed it on the meeting table.

Tillman’s eyes were full of rage, but focused on something a hundred miles away. Sunny was a tough man, but that look on the boss’s face always gave him the chills. He looked like he was trying to bore a hole in the cinder block wall with his eyes, his lids twitching but unblinking. When Tillman had that look, things could blow up in a heartbeat. And when that happened, you didn’t want to be anywhere near ground zero.

The Rattlers’ clubhouse occupied a nondescript building on the back lot of Simpson’s Ready-Mix, in the industrial outskirts of Riverside. It was flanked on one side by a large metal maintenance building, and on the other by a row of broken down cement trucks awaiting repairs. The front half of the clubhouse consisted of a dimly lit social area with a bar, a few stools and tables, dart boards and a small stage. Sunny and Tillman were in the meeting room, which was down a hall at the back of the building along with a couple of flop rooms, a shitter and shower, storage room and a small kitchen. The rest of the building was empty at this hour of the morning.

“Boss?” Sunny asked, trying not to sound too pushy.

After a moment Tillman’s gaze swam back into the room. His eyes swept left and right, and finally focused on the broken picture frame sitting on the table. He picked it up and studied the magazine cover within it, the features on his unshaven face softening just a little. He cleared away a few broken shards of glass, then sank into his chair at the head of the table.

“Wayne and I built this bike,” he said in a somewhat milder tone, placing the broken frame back onto the table.

Sunny breathed a sigh of relief, as the worst of the storm seemed to have passed—for now. He reached over and picked up the frame to look at the magazine cover. It showed a sparkling chopper parked on a desert highway, with a voluptuous, bikini-clad Latina draped over it. “Austin’s old man?”

“Yeah. Fucking Wayne…” Tillman shook his head slightly as his voice trailed off. After a moment he sighed, then continued. “Neither of us knew what the hell we were doing. We’d never built a bike before. But we had this old hardtail frame layin’ around, and we got a wild hair one day. So we bolted it to the top of a workbench in Wayne’s garage and just went at it.”

“What’s that got to do with the shit that went down out in Amboy, boss? We takin’ a trip down memory lane?”

Tillman looked up, his eyes beginning to smolder once again. Sunny shrank slightly, as Tillman said, still in a somewhat calm voice, but now laced with venom, “Shut. The fuck. Up.” Sunny took one of the seats along the table

After a moment, Tillman continued. “Austin was still just a kid at the time. But his old man and I were just coming up in the MC. Both of us thought we needed to do something—something big—to establish some cred. I mean, what kind of hard core biker rode around on a store-bought bike?”

Tillman’s fingers grazed the surface of the photo, testing the sharp edges of the broken glass. “Wayne had that old FLH that he’d been tinkerin’ on, and I had some shit-box, I can’t even remember what it was. But I remember that I HAD to wrench on it constantly just to keep it running. So we started working on this chopper.”

Sunny stayed quiet. Maybe the old man would get to some sort of point soon. He knew there was shit to do, not the least of which was mopping up that mess out in Amboy he’d overheard Tillman talking to Austin about on the phone. And of course, Austin himself was another mess that needed to be cleaned up, for good this time. But Tillman had the floor, so all Sunny could do was sit back and let him spill.

“We’d drool over the bikes in that rag every month, and thought we could build something worthy of some ink. We had all kinds of crazy ideas. Twisted wrought-iron, huge-ass chrome sissy bar, ape hangers, whole nine yards. Problem was neither of us had a clue what we were doing and figured we’d just fuck it up if we tried to get into too much heavy fabrication. So we settled on raking the forks a few extra degrees, bought a fancy springer front-end for it, and built that rat’s nest of exhaust pipes you see there in the photo. We had to use Earl over in Rubidoux for that because neither of us could weld for shit. But we fucked with that thing for about six months before we finally called it good enough. Then we tore it down to paint.”

Sunny was staring at the bike on the magazine cover, sitting in the twisted picture frame under broken glass. He could almost see a younger Tillman and Wayne Conrad fussing over that bike as they were building it.

Tillman stood up and walked to the cabinet at the back of the meeting room. He pulled a bottle of 12-year Glenfiddich from a shelf and dropped a few cubes of ice into a rocks glass. “Scotch?”

Sunny shook his head, so Tillman poured just one drink, walked back to his chair and sat. He savored a sip before continuing.

“The bike itself was nothing special, but we scraped together enough cabbage to have ol’ Sloan give it what we thought would be an epic paint job. Huge metal flake had gone out of style back in the 70’s. By the mid-80’s only hillbillies were painting their bass boats like that. But we had this bright idea to bring it back. Retro before retro was cool. So that’s what we did. And I’ll be damned if that ain’t what got it onto that cover.”

Sunny was growing impatient. “I get it, boss! It’s a ‘teachable moment.’ Life lessons and all that shit. You did something big and got some props, and everyone finally took you seriously—it’s a beautiful story.” Sunny stood up, his eyes wide, as if to say can we go now?

Tillman leaned forward, staring Sunny in the face. “You don’t fucking listen. That’s always been your problem. Now sit the fuck down.”

Sunny did.

Tillman took another sip of Scotch, set the glass back on the table, and leaned back in his chair. “That bike didn’t do shit for us. It was a fluke we even made it on the cover of that fucking rag. Everyone just laughed and called it the “glitter bike”. It didn’t buy us shit for cred. We were fools to think it would.” Tillman looked up, his eyes fixed on Sunny.

“But we were naive, so it took us a while to figure out the joke was on us. We took that piece of shit to Laughlin that year to show it off. We had to take turns riding it, it was so god-damn uncomfortable. We’d swap between it and Wayne’s FLH whenever we’d stop for gas or a piss. Like idiots, we thought we might get some pats on the back for it over there at the River Run. But we were wrong. Everyone just laughed at it there too, even our own brothers.” Tillman mocked the last word with air quotes.

“It was just a big fucking joke. We tried to laugh along with them. I could tell Wayne was just waving it all off. It slid off his back like water off a duck. But not me. I’d laugh it off to their faces, but inside I was boiling.”

Tillman drained the rest of his scotch, and jiggled the glass to make the ice clink against the sides. He thought a moment, staring at the glass, before continuing.

“After a few days of eatin’ shit, we finally headed for home. Wayne was just like Austin is now, always wanting to take those fucking back roads. So we were somewhere out in butt-fuck Egypt, I don’t remember where, exactly. Maybe out on Rice Road or something, when that piece of shit glitter bike starts giving us fits, coughing and fartin’, acting like it had a fuel line clog or something. I was riding it at the time, so I pulled over. There were only three of us: me and Wayne and some prospect on a Sportster. But everybody with half a brain had taken the freeway. Anyhow I was hunkered down next to the glitter bike with my head poked into the carburetor, when these two Satan’s Bastards rode up next to us. At first I figured they were just stopping to see if we were OK. There’d never been any beef between the Rattlers and the Bastards. At least not back then.”

“But when they came to a stop, they weren’t asking what was wrong. They were laughing, and pointing at the glitter bike.”

Sunny was now listening intently. Tillman’s voice had dropped an octave, but the bitterness in it had ratcheted up a notch.

“I stood up from the bike and turned toward them. Pulled out my shitty little Lorcin .380 and shot one of them in the face. Put a hole right between that shit-eatin’ grin and his fucking nose. Dropped him like a sack of rocks. I remember it like it was yesterday.”

Sunny was still.

“The other one went for his knife, but Wayne had stepped up behind him and put him in a choke hold. He was yellin’ ‘what the fuck Tillman?’ But like a good brother he had the guy trussed up tight. So I pulled out my own knife and gutted the Bastard like a hog in a slaughterhouse.”

Sunny’s eyes were wide. Tillman was staring down at the photo in the broken frame.

Tillman laughed, a quiet little sound that made Sunny’s skin crawl. “Wayne and the prospect were shitting bricks. Hollerin’ why’d I do it and what are we gonna do now. Whining like a couple of bitches. I looked ‘em both in the eye and said we weren’t gonna do nothin’ but leave ‘em to the vultures. We dragged them and their bikes off the road, out into the desert a little bit. But we knew they’d be found. I wanted them to be found.”

Tillman looked up from the picture. “And that got us some cred. Well, me anyhow. The pigs never figured out who wasted those two Bastards out there. Probably didn’t really care, to tell the truth. But the Rattlers knew, the ones what mattered, anyhow. And they looked at me differently after that, now that they knew what I was made of.”

Tillman set the broken picture frame back down on the table, looked up at Sunny and said, “Some of ‘em were proud. The rest were scared.” Tillman leaned forward. “Which are you? Sunny?”

Sunny held his gaze a moment, swallowed, then said “Proud.” It was a lie.

“Good. Now find me another phone, I need to call up to Barstow.”

Book Review: Jebediah’s Crime by Vincent Phan Tran

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5 out of 5 stars.

Publishing my own first book has been a rewarding—and challenging—experience. Facing those challenges alone would have been difficult enough, but I’ve been helped through the process by several other new, or fairly new, independent authors (you’ve seen me mention—and sing the praises of—Joshua Gayou, and his excellent debut Commune book series).

Vincent Phan Tran has been another new author that I’ve been lucky enough to confide in, bounce ideas off of, and trade war stories of the trials of publishing books. Like Joshua, Vincent also writes in a different genre from my own, however there are some elements that are common to all three of our styles, such as great action, unforgettable characters, and a fresh perspective on the subject matter each us is tackling.

Vince recently released his debut novel, Jebediah’s Crime. This is the first in his planned “Hinge Series” of heroic supernatural thrillers. The last term in that rather rambling genre designation is where we find the most common ground between our stories, as this is indeed a thriller. If you’ve read, and liked, my debut novella No Time to Bleed, I believe you’ll find a lot to like in Jebediah’s Crime, as I did. Even if you’re not traditionally a reader of supernatural thrillers or “urban fantasy”, you’ll be taken in by the fast pace, intricate action sequences and interesting settings. Jebediah’s Crime is a painstakingly well-crafted story, set within an expertly developed world, with interesting characters and lots of satisfying action.

Those of you who know me, or have read my work, know that I love history. And here, smack-dab in the middle of an urban fantasy story set among dragons, magic and fantastic locations, there’s a morsel of real history that is poignant, moving and captivating. It’s a sequence where one of the main families of the story are escaping Saigon at the end of the Vietnam war. Here is where, at least for this reader, the author has made his most indelible mark. While its treated as a flashback, it takes skill to to weave such an iconic moment in actual, real world history, into a tale of fantasy and magic. And we get a definite sense of the affect those events have had on the author in real life, and how it has wrought the themes that have taken form in his stories. The Vietnam sequence is skillfully crafted, and lends weight and credibility to the rest of the story.

The book concludes satisfactorily, with no major cliffhangers. But it ends with the promise of much more to come from Vincent Phan Tran, and with these characters we’ve come to know. I’m looking forward to the next installment!

Disclaimer: I was provided an Advanced Reader Copy by the author at no cost. I was only asked for initial feedback, though there was no requirement to post an official review in exchange for the ARC. However, I enjoyed the book so much that I gladly purchased it upon release, and am proud to offer my thoughts in this review as a verified purchaser of the book.

LINKS: Buy Jebediah’s Crime ׀ Vincent Phan Tran’s Website

No Time To Bleed now available Everywhere!

I’m proud to report that No Time To Bleed is now available worldwide, and on every major eBook seller!  Best of all, its priced at only 99 cents (or close equivalent in other currencies).  So whether you read on your Kindle, or prefer iBooks, Nook, Kobo, or most any other eReader or device app, there’s a version of No Time To Bleed for you!  Here are links to the most popular sites to get it:


Amazon Kindle Store

Apple iTunes (iBooks)

Barnes & Noble (Nook)

Kobo

Inktera

And of course you can still get No Time To Bleed for free, by joining my email list.

Book Review: Commune Book Two by Joshua Gayou

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5 out of 5 stars.

Commune: Book 2 is a remarkable read, and even manages to improve on the solid first book in the series. And that’s a tall order, as that one came charging out of the gates as a fresh, thoughtful take on the post-apaclyptic theme by rookie author Joshua Gayou. With his sophomore effort, Gayou ratchets up the storyline by digging us deeper into the personalities of several of the main characters, while continuing to advance the overall narrative of the “history” of this fictional community of survivors.

Book 2 primarily expands the story of another of the commune’s main characters, who was briefly introduced in the epilogue to the first book. Gibs is a former Marine, and we meet him and his hapless band of misfits as they struggle to survive amid the ruined cities of Colorado. There are several tense, violent, defining moments where hope seems all but lost, but under Gibs’ will and perseverence they manage to press on. Eventually they make their way to the Jackson, Wyoming, and are taken in by the original settlers of the commune (whose establishment was the subject of the first book). Here, the narrative switches from run-and-gun survival against other groups of more ill intent, and settles into a procedural of planning and working toward their long term survival in a more secure, permanent place. There are some interesting solutions to the problems of housing, food, security, and yes even waste disposal. Gayou has thought of everything.

This is where Book 2 continues with the satisfying breadth of theme and subject matter that was initiated in the first installment. Yes, we get plenty of action, plenty of Road Warrior style confrontations with the bad guys. But mixing in a healthy dose of real-world problems, and the clever solutions to them, helps with the immersion into the story. It lends a level of believability that is absent in the more cartoonish, all-gore-and-grim examples in the genre. And, gratefully for this reader, it also infuses an underlying sense of hope to the story. Yes, disasters happen, the group is fraught with setbacks, but ultimately we can see that they’re laying down the groundwork for long term success. We’re rooting for them.

Which isn’t to say the violence and action take a back seat. The story climaxes in an epic road-borne battle that rivals any I’ve read in the genre. This is the set piece that Gibs’ entire story arc has laid the groundwork for. His colorful personality is matched by his battle-toughness, as he leads his ragtag group of scavengers against an overwhelming force of bad guys. Here is the red meat for hard core fans of the genre.

But Gayou’s talent is in weaving the id and the ego. It’s not all just gunfire and explosions. He’s put some real thought into many of the more basic questions of a post-apaclyptic world, and handled those subjects with skill. The aforementioned survival needs, and their solutions, are a case in point. But Gayou throws subjects into the mix that you’d never even think of, then forces his characters to figure out a solution. One such episode features a member of their own group, who goes off the rails in a way that I’ve never seen addressed in a story of this genre. Several themes come together in that one small corner of the story, such as the subject matter itself, the idea that the monsters a group of survivors must face can come from within as well as without, and also the moral struggle to figure out a just solution.

Commune: Book 2, ultimately becomes more than just a post-apocalyptic narrative. It studies themes that break the norms of the genre, and therefore would be a satisfying read for even those who don’t usually read such books. We see deep character studies, watch them grow and develop, some for the good and some not so. Gayou stress-tests them in a wide variety of situations to see what they do. And its fun to watch.

Disclaimer: I was provided an Advanced Reader Copy by the author at no cost. I was only asked for initial feedback, though there was no requirement to post an official review in exchange for the ARC. However, I enjoyed the book so much that I gladly purchased it anyhow, and am proud to offer my thoughts in this review as a verified customer of the book.

LINKS: Buy Commune: Book Two ׀ Joshua Gayou’s Blog

No Time To Bleed – First Draft Complete!

I’ve just completed the first draft of my first book! I’m pretty pumped about that but there’s a ton of work left to do. I’m trying to do this on the cheap so I’m doing as much of it myself as I can. A couple rounds of edits, cover design, put together all the front and back matter, output to eBook formats, figure out how to publish it on the various sites. Marketing. That’s a lot to figure out and execute. I think if I can get it done by the end of July I’ll be satisfied.

In the meantime, I’ll be reaching out to friends and family for some guinea-pigging. I’d like to get this thing in front of a few sets of eyes for some feedback. I think its pretty good, but you know, forest and trees and all that. In the dog breeding world they say you’re “kennel blind” if you can’t see the faults in your own dogs. So here’s where you come in. If you’d like to take an early crack at it, send me a note and I’ll get you an advanced copy as a Word or PDF file, after I’ve cleaned it up a little with some more editing. I’ll gladly take as much or as little feedback as you’re comfortable giving. All I ask is that you at least give me your overall impressions of it. Anything more than that, I’ll be grateful for but won’t require.

A little about the book, so you’re not going into it blind. At the moment its titled No Time To Bleed. Just the title might give you some idea of the content. It’s a fast-paced action/thriller. There are plenty of bad words, violence, and irreverence. If that sort of thing doesn’t float your boat that’s fine, I won’t be offended if you don’t want to read it. I just would like you to know going in. I know some readers are averse to profanity, so I intend to pre-warn readers in the blurbs.

This book was sort of accidental in its origins. I had already started an (almost) unrelated series of books that are historical-based thrillers, sort of in the vein of Steve Berry, Dan Brown, etc. The earliest installment of that series is set back in the 80’s, when my protagonist and his friends were teenagers. When I sat down to write it, I didn’t get very far in before I realized I didn’t know much about these characters yet. And it was a challenge getting back into the mind of a teenager in the 80’s. So I thought I’d write a short story about a couple of the characters, based closer to the present, to find out who they grew up to be. I thought that would give me some insight into who they were back then (which it did).

The hero of those books is a fellow by the name of Hank Stone. I’ll talk more about him later, as those books flesh out. You’ll see a couple of references to him in No Time To Bleed. But his cousin, and best friend, is a guy named Austin Conrad. Austin only plays a supporting role in those books, but I chose him to start with my short story/characterization project. And this book was the result. As I said, my intention was for it to just be a short story that would probably never see the light of day. But it grew a little more than that, into a 20,000-word novella. And I thought it was good enough to go ahead and share. I also think it might serve as the basis for a series of its own, with Austin as the main character.

While my love for history still seeps into the story somewhat, Austin Conrad is more like Jack Reacher or John Milton, than Indiana Jones. I won’t say much more about him or the book other than to say if you enjoy a fast pace, head-knocking, weapons, and the desert, you’ll probably find something you like among the pages of No Time To Bleed.

Before I go, I’ll make a plea to please join my mailing list. I’ve read a lot about the importance of indie authors building a mailing list of readers, so I’ve set one up. I won’t spam you incessantly, I’ll just use it to let you know when new books are coming out, and the occasional update. Please use the simple form below to add yourself to the list:

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Book Review: Solitude by Dean M. Cole

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4 out of 5 stars.

Author Dean M. Cole states right on the cover that this is book one in a series, and indeed the story contained therein does set the stage for what promises to be a compelling extended story. That said, Solitude: Dimension Space Book One could very well stand on its own as a single installment post-apocalyptic thriller. Of course we’re left wondering what caused the apocalypse, and where the survivors will go from here, but the events of the first book are brought to a tidy, satisfying conclusion.

And what a ride this first book is! The question of what caused the apocalypse, and why, is briefly probed but mostly set aside for the time being while the characters work out their more immediate dilemma. There are only two survivors left: Vaughn, a sort of washed-up combat helicopter pilot, on Earth’s surface, and Angela, an unlikely survivor stranded alone on the International Space Station. They eventually become aware of each others’ existence, initiate communications, and work to rescue Angela from orbit.

Vaughn is a frustrating character. He is presented as the hero but he has some flaws that sometimes make you want to reach through the page and slap some sense into him. Even though he embarks on what would seem an impossible quest–to travel to the ISS and return with Angela safely to the surface, its not the borderline-believable aspects of these tasks that nearly do him in–its his own stupidity, haste and stubbornness.  But despite a series of self-imposed setbacks, he manages to stumble through the story.

Dean M. Cole is a helicopter pilot, and the knowledge and jargon of that profession come through the narrative.  While I was reading it I was wondering if other readers might find it a bit wonky in that regard (I didn’t).  But there were a couple of minor issues about the writing that did bug me a little.  The first of these came early in the story, with some fairly steady fat-shaming of the main character, both self-inflicted and also by his partner.  Another was the repetitive use of certain phrases that are unique enough that recurring use of them becomes a bit annoying.  I’m not sure how many times the term “a pregnant pause” was used, but it seemed excessive.

The characters were well developed and ably portrayed.  But it did sometimes feel a bit awkward when the author was dealing with romantic interactions between them (as well as their private thoughts regarding intimacy toward the other).  I suppose that’s fine though, as I can’t really say how one would act if he or she were the last of their gender, and there was only one left of the opposite.  I suppose it might seem a little awkward.

Solitude is an interesting combination of apocalyptic and near-future sci-fi.  I enjoyed exploring Dean M. Cole’s version of a suddenly people-less world, where planes, trains and automobiles are instantly left pilot-less, and how that can lead to mass destruction even in the absence of roaming hordes of survivors, zombies or monsters.  With regards to the science, I’m putting my faith in the author that the technologies he employs come with at least a theoretical grain of truth rather than created out of whole cloth. The author’s apparent knowledge of other, real-world technologies such as the workings of NASA and the ISS, was impressive and seemed well-researched.

I found this book interesting and entertaining.  There are hints that the next installments will delve further into science theory, and I’m looking forward to that.  I’m also looking forward to seeing how these characters grow and cope with both the world around them and the relationship between them.  Mr. Cole has skillfully hooked me into anticipation of the continuation of the series.

Lastly, a word about the audio performance.  If you’ve read my review from my first foray into audiobooks, you know that I came away from it a bit underwhelmed on the whole concept.  But Solitude’s narrators, R.C. Bray and Julia Whelan, restored my faith in the format.  Their performances were spot-on, and didn’t distract from my enjoyment of the story.  I only listened to a portion of the book in audio, as I still prefer flipping through the pages on my Kindle.  But I’ll be more receptive, in the future, to the idea of listening rather than reading, when the opportunity comes up such as long drives.

LINKS: Buy Solitude: Dimension Space Book One ׀ Dean M. Cole’s Website

If you are an indie or self-published author and are interested in having me read and review your book, drop me a note with a link to your eBook listing on Amazon.  If it looks interesting, I may add it to my “to read” list.  I typically post my reviews to Amazon and Goodreads.  I do not ask for free copies in exchange for a review.  If it looks like something I might enjoy, I will gladly pay for it myself.

Book Review: The First City by Joe Hart

3 out of 5 stars.

In my last book review, Commune, Book One by Joshua Gayou, I mentioned that I don’t read a lot of post-apocalypse fiction. But with The First City, here I am having read two in a row, so I guess I may need to re-assess my reading habits. At any rate, this does present a unique opportunity to compare and contrast two books from the same genre, while they are still fresh in my mind.

I had read the first installment of the Dominion Trilogy, The Last Girl, over a year ago, when it was offered as a Kindle First selection. Looking back at my review of the first book in this series, I had summed it up thusly: “Despite the things that sort of nagged me the whole way through, the story did keep me turning the pages, and left me intrigued enough that I’m looking forward to the continuation of the series.” Now, at its conclusion, I still take issue with those nagging points, plus several more. However, I did enjoy the saga despite its flaws, and leave it feeling satisfied.

The series is based on an interesting take on the apocalyptic theme: that suddenly humans are only giving birth to males, turning the remaining females into a commodity to be fought over, used, and abused. Though this take on the theme does precipitate out into the classic “good versus evil” struggle, there are some twists and revelations that keep the material fresh. One of the interesting twists that this presents on the apocalyptic theme is that society is dying a slow death (due to the lack of reproduction of females) rather than a sudden, climactic event. The events in the series take place years, or decades, after the beginning of the “dearth”, so we see Joe Hart’s vision of society after it has already been in decline for quite a while

Zoey, the protagonist, is an interesting character. From the beginning of the series, my take on her has been that she’s much too worldly and tough, to believe she is the product of a sheltered (if abused) upbringing in an enclosed, restrictive panopticon. That complaint still holds true, for me, through the second and this, the third and final book in the series. But despite that somewhat nagging flaw, the story remains engaging.

The story serves as both a thriller and a deeper study of human character. Joe Hart paints a picture of human nature that, for most, devolves into its basest and most depraved qualities when faced with the finality of cavitation’s demise. Hope for humanity is presented in the form of Zoey, who, we find out at the end of the second book, is the “keystone” for unlocking the mystery of the dearth of female births. Indeed she is presented with the knowledge that a female baby has been born from her own eggs. The rest of the story focuses on her quest (with the help of her companions) to find and rescue her baby, while also saving humanity from its impending doom.

That sounds like a tall order. The reader will find it a fun ride following Zoey and her companions on that quest. There are some twists along the way to keep things interesting, and ultimately all of the various story lines and loose ends are tied up in a satisfying conclusion.

I wish Joe Hart had stopped there. There is a long, drawn out set of final chapters, plus an epilogue, that are tacked on after the final climax like dead weight. Some of it gets a bit preachy and annoying, but some readers may find value in the extensive “aftermath” information.

Throughout the book the action is frequently slowed down by long, deep thoughts and conversations about characters’ backgrounds, thought ruminations, etc. These can get a bit tedious when you just want to know what happens next. But I understand the author’s intent to present some philosophical underpinnings along with just telling the story.

Overall, I thought this book was slightly weaker than the second installment of the series, which for me was the best of the three. But as I said it did bring the story to a satisfying, if rambling, conclusion.

Finally, a note on the audio book. I’d read about half of this book before leaving for a long road trip. So I bought the audio version on Audible in order to pass the time on the road. I see no place on Amazon to critique the audio performance independent of the book itself, so I’ll append it to this review. In short, found the narrator to be quite annoying. Her performance of the material was way too dramatized. I found that she got into a rhythm of overly annunciating and dramatizing certain words in EVERY sentence, regardless of how insignificant the sentence or passage was. I understand that its supposed to be a performance, not just a simple reading, but for me, the performance in this case subtracted from my enjoyment of the material. She used a deeper voice for the male characters, but the “good guys” came out sounding the same as the “bad guys”. And her characterization of Zoey was completely wrong. She portrayed her in a whiney, young girl voice, that seemed like every little situation scared her out of her wits. That was complete opposite of the tough girl I had been envisioning in my mind through two and a half books. I would have given the audiobook performance two stars, but I’m not letting that affect the star rating I’m giving the book itself

LINKS: Buy The Last City ׀ Joe Hart’s Website

If you are an indie or self-published author and are interested in having me read and review your book, drop me a note with a link to your eBook listing on Amazon.  If it looks interesting, I may add it to my “to read” list.  I typically post my reviews to Amazon and Goodreads.  I do not ask for free copies in exchange for a review.  If it looks like something I might enjoy, I will gladly pay for it myself.

Book Review: Commune Book One by Joshua Gayou

4 out of 5 stars.

Commune: Book One is an excellent first book by a promising new author. I learned of Joshua Gayou’s book through a mutual friend and thought what the hell, I’ll give it a shot. I read a lot of indie authors and first-time novelists, with varying degrees of satisfaction. Many brand new authors start out pretty shaky, with poorly developed stories, one-dimensional characters, awkward prose and poor editing. So I wasn’t expecting much when I jumped into this book. I was more or less just curious to see what someone who happened to be in a similar circle of friends would be writing about.

But I was quite pleasantly surprised at how much I actually enjoyed this book. While I’m not a huge follower of post-apocalyptic fiction, I do enjoy it from time to time. Gayou’s take on the theme tends to focus on more of the details of what would actually happen in such a societal break-down, and how the people who are left would cope with the new reality. Most other books, movies and TV shows in the genre tend to break down into simple good vs. evil melodrama, with survivors aggregating into one of those two camps and battling it out, with a heavy focus on the violence. Commune has some of those themes, of course, but the book takes a more cerebral approach to exploring the reality of what would actually happen.

The structure of the story is clever, told in first-person from several of the main characters’ points of view. At first this threw me a little bit, as I would confuse characters when the POV shifted. But from about half-way through the book all of the chapters are from a single character’s POV so it becomes a little easier to follow along.

There were a few editing issues I spotted, along with a couple of minor plot problems, but these were few and far between. Overall the prose was MUCH cleaner than I’ve come to expect from rookie novelists. And they weren’t enough to throw off my reading rhythm or to affect my enjoyment of the story.

And I did enjoy it. I found myself tearing through the story faster than I usually do with some of my favorite big-name authors. This is presented as book one in a series, and I find myself looking forward to the continuation of the story. Well done, Mr. Gayou.

LINKS: Buy Commune: Book One ׀ Joshua Gayou’s Blog

If you are an indie or self-published author and are interested in having me read and review your book, drop me a note with a link to your eBook listing on Amazon.  If it looks interesting, I may add it to my “to read” list.  I typically post my reviews to Amazon and Goodreads.  I do not ask for free copies in exchange for a review.  If it looks like something I might enjoy, I will gladly pay for it myself.

Fuck That Shit! Profanity In Popular Literature

I’ve been slinging words on a few stories I’ve finally decided to commit to paper (that’s a figure of speech–who uses paper anymore?)  As I’m writing, it occurs to me that I’m using a few more curse words than I’m used to seeing in the books I typically read.  Is that a problem?  Let’s take a look at it.

I’m a fairly active reader.  I read up to 50 books a year.  For those keeping score, I know that’s paltry compared to some of you.  But measured against the average American, whose reading typically consists of a few illegible texts and 140-character tweets, I think that’s pretty good.  One by-product of all that reading is that I read a lot of book reviews while I’m browsing for my next prose binge.  And I’ve noticed a common theme that pops up in many of them: a lot of readers are averse to swearing.  They will even put it in their book reviews, like a public service announcement: “warning: the book contains quite a few F-bombs but if you can get past those, its a fairly good read!”  Sometimes reviewers will even dock a star or two for cuss words, regardless of the quality of the writing or the merits of the story.

It’s enough to give a wordsmith pause.  After all, all of those Fucks, Shits, and Cunts can actually cost you money.  If a large portion of the book-reading public might shy away from your work simply for the colorful language, perhaps that will translate into a hit against your sales.  Especially with all of those do-good reviewers out there diligently working to keep prospective readers’ tender sensibilities safe from such depravity.  It might even be enough to cause some writers to consciously avoid curse words in their work, simply as a marketing decision.

Not me.  I say “fuck that shit!”  I suppose if writing were my primary career, and I was counting on maximizing sales in order to ensure my livelihood, I might look at it differently.  But for me, at least at this point, writing is simply an outlet.  A form of expression.  A way to crystalize some of the thoughts and ideas that have come to me over the years.  Well, the ones I thought were worth sharing, anyhow.  I’m not really worried that the little old lady from Pasadena might decide not to drop the $2.99 on my silly eBook just because it has a few curse words.  Fuck that bitch.

Many authors write with a recognizable “voice.”  In addition to the stories they tell, we become enamored with how they tell them.  I woouldn’t say that I’ve  developed a signature voice yet for my own writing, except to say that I tell a story in the words I’m comfortable using.  And my own vernacular includes a liberal smattering of curses.  My writing voice is my speaking voice, and that usually comes without a filter.  Sometimes a choice curse word the only way to get your point across exactly the way you mean it.  I mean, is there really any other way to express the exclamation “Fucking-A”?

If I consciously censored my words, you wouldn’t be getting the real me.  You wouldn’t be getting the genuine intent of the characters I’m trying to portray.  My characters live in my mind, and even though some things happen to them that might stretch the ability to suspend disbelief, for the most part my stories are set in a close facsimile of the “real world.”.  And to me, the real world isn’t network television.  It’s not even pay-cable, where saying “shit” and showing the occasional ass cheek or side-boob is OK, but heaven forbid we see a nipple or hear someone say “fuck me!”.  No, my worlds are straight premium cable–HBO, Showtime, R-rated movies, perhaps even the occasional NC-17.  Its the world I live in.  So that’s the world I write, with all of its grit and warts.  Like it or not.

Time will tell whether anything I write will ever be considered “art” by anyone but myself.  But I believe it is.  And I’m not inclined to compromise the integrity of my art just to try to find a wider audience for it.  Some will shy away from it just for the bad words–if the preposterous plots and un-polished writing hadn’t already driven them off.  That’s OK.  It’s not for everyone, and I’m fine with that.  But hopefully it’s for someone, maybe even a few someones.  But if it turns out I’m just over here sitting at my keyboard cussing at myself and nobody else ever reads it, well, I guess that’s OK too.