Friday, August 30, 2019

Music Post: Delain - Suckerpunch

This is a cute one by Minniva. The original is .. okay. But I like Minniva's renditions of most things.

So, while I'm out and about in Atlanta for DragonCon this week, have some music.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

DragonCon Schedule, 2019

My schedule for Dragoncon.

Title: Contemporary Vampires
Time: Fri 10:00 am Location: Chastain 1-2 - Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: Long a staple of urban fantasy, the depictions of vampires appearing in the genre have evolved over time. Our panel of authors discusses the aspects they employ in their work, as well as the characteristics they adopted & adapted from earlier sources.
Panelists: Clay Gilbert, J.F. Lewis, Lisa Manifold, Declan Finn, R E Carr, Jennifer Morris(M), Mari Mancusi

Title: Reading Session: Declan Finn
Time: Sat 02:30 pm Location: Marietta - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Panelists: Declan Finn

Title: Is It Simply Dark or Horror?
Time: Sat 07:00 pm Location: Embassy EF - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: The great debate! Some claim that horror simply means there is no happy ending--could it really be that simple? Is there more to the Darkness than just being scary? Just how scary is dark fantasy before we hit horror? What makes you read a book with ALL the lights on?
Panelists: Declan Finn, Trisha J. Wooldridge, Russell Newquist(M), Anya Martin, Jonathan Maberry

Title: Who Needs Research?
Time: Sun 11:30 am Location: Embassy CD - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: Readers are smart. No matter the genre, authors need to research certain aspects of their stories. Discussion will concern research techniques & when to stop--and write.
Panelists: Lee Martindale, D.J. Butler, Marc Alan Edelheit, Declan Finn, John L. Flynn(M), K.N. Lee

Title: Meet the Dragon Awards
Time: Sun 04:00 pm Location: Embassy EF - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Moderator / MC for panel
Description: We are going to have a mix of past Award Winners & Finalists from this year & years past. So many good books, so many great authors!
Panelists: Jon R. Osborne , Amy J. Murphy, Russell Newquist(M), Christopher Woods, L. Jagi Lamplighter, Ruthanna Emrys

No, I'm not on that last one. But my publisher is the moderator. I'm at least going to be in the audience.

See you around

Monday, August 26, 2019

Review, Maxwell Cain: Burrito Avenger

This one was described as John Wick, but with a burrito (not a puppy).
An action novel for fans of John Wick, Demolition Man, or Die Hard.

Maxwell Cain, also known as “Bloody Rain Cain,” is a cop fed up with the murderous hooligans who control the streets of San Pajita, California.

After years of public service, Max is fired for executing too many dirtbags, and he seeks solace at his favorite taqueria. When his comfort burrito is sullied by the careless actions of brutal thugs, Max finally snaps. What begins as an argument over a ruined lunch quickly spirals into a hurricane of blood and revenge.

Max is joined in his fight by the gorgeous Kate Valentine, a baker with an itchy trigger finger. As the two rush into battle against an entire criminal organization, they are hunted by the relentless terror of the seedy underworld: Johnny Legion.

This book is designed to feel like watching a classic 80s or 90s American action flick.

Welcome to Maxwell Cain: Burrito Avenger.

This one isn't ... quite as insane as it first appears.

Kind of. Sorta. It's complicated.

To begin with, unlike the deep, complicated events and emotions behind "Puppy = killing spree," the burrito in this instance is less the puppy, and more the last straw. In a city that is as corrupt as Chicago, only with an extra layer of scum at the top, Pan Pajita's police force is so overwhelmed that the police "can't respond to every little shooting." But no one at the top minds, because the criminals pay "fines" (usually a portion of the take from the crimes) that goes into the private coffers of public officials.  Okay, fine. It could also be Dirty Harry's superiors in LA.

This one opens with one of the best opening lines since Jim Butcher's "The building was on fire and it wasn't my fault." Adam's is "Maxwell Cain had killed dozens of men. In fact, that was kind of the problem."

It even has a little setup tag that sounds like an 80's film trailer. You can just hear the narrator read "In a world where one man..." etc.

But after a day where Maxwell Cain (I'm sure that it's a coincidence that Max Caine sounds like Matt Payne, honest .... especially the parts that go into bullet time) kills six bank robbers, then is fired for it, all before lunch, he's pissed off and hangry (No, I didn't misspell it).

When some random gangbangers hipcheck Caine into spilling his burrito, he whips out the cheesey one liner ("maybe I'll be a teacher." The next chapter is called "Lesson Plan", and the joke concludes with "Class dismissed") and goes to beat up some thugs. When the thugs need to be put down, it turns out that they were off to pay a mafia bag man -- who still wants his payoff. That confrontation spirals into a war with an entire mafia family, who assume he's a hit man.

With a few breaks to pause for something strange, like character moments, this is basically a 250 page running shootout. The scene that best exemplifies this is where a gunship blasts a monorail train off the track, causing the car to land on top of a hotel roof, which eventually crashes through every floor to land into an electrified pool, into which Max Caine Sparta-kicks a thug while declaring "THIS! IS! SAN PANJITA!"

Did I mention that there's a bit of hat tipping in this book? I'm surprised that Max doesn't end up losing his shoes while walking through broken glass. There's every setpiece shootout ever scene in a film -- shooting up a mall, a hotel, a public art exhibit (the Pieta re-imagined with lizard people -- kill it with fire!), run and gun car chase, a hotel, a mobster's home, a train, "the docks," the standard warehouse, and a few other places thrown in. And he double-wields every chance he gets. We have Jackie Chan's baseball wielding thugs in suit and tie. He has John McClane's habit at yelling at gunmen (An RPG tears up the street, he yells, "Do you have any idea how much it costs to fix a pothole that big?"). At least one man killed during a poker game had aces and eights (subtle).

Did I mention that the mafia enforcer dresses in white and carries a golden desert eagle -- meaning that he's the man with the golden gun?

And like John Wick, Max Caine, cars are his only weakness -- getting hit with them. That, and the running gag that every time he sees a burrito and reaches for it, he summons more gunmen.

Then there's the new stuff -- like "gunfight selfies" (I can see that being a thing) a running gag of shopping while they work, and this is the first Catholic action hero I've seen since William F Buckley JR wrote spy thrillers.... and not written by me. Comparing someone's home to a serial killer den. And the prescient "City council declare it was unfair for cops to get protective gear when civilians don't, said we needed to even the odds."

Most of the combat is very well done and highly detailed. All the action is tightly paced. Though after a while, even Adam stops detailing the path of every bullet and discusses how everyone is just firing on automatic and spraying faceless gunmen with bullets. (If you ever wonder why I suck characters into melee combat a lot, this is why.) To be perfectly fair, Adam does try to describe every minion who lasts more than a few lines, though that's a lot of bald or bearded men after a while, and I wondered when there would be other descriptors used. Though that's probably just "one writer nitpicking."

And the one liners. Oy, the one liners. To fit in more one liners, Max Caine talks to himself. A lot.

Some examples?
After his lunch is ruined and one of the killers is run over: "Lunch hour traffic will really kill you."

"I'm the best cop in the department."
"You're the most violent cop in the department."
"That's what I said."

"I don't want water. I'm thirsty for blood."

While surrounded by gunmen: "Well, yippe ki yay."

This feels like a Dirty Harry movie starring Ahhnuld, meets Falling Down, but with John Wick level stunts.

Anyway, I fully recommend it in all of its utterly insane glory. Buy Maxwell Cain: Burrito Avenger right here.

And while you're at it, you can pick up one of my latest Saint Tommy novels.

Review: Psychic Undercover (with the Undead)

Ah, vampire romance novels. The cotton candy of the literary world. Even the more substantial ones are so light and fluffy, you could drop them in the ocean and they'd work as a life preserver. (Lynsay Sands, I'm looking at you. I like your stuff, but you need to invest a little more in plot.)

Luckily, Amie Gibbons' book Psychic Undercover (with the Undead) is more urban fantasy than vampire romance, so thankfully we have plot, we have character, we have a bit of a police procedural, and we have action.
The FBI's about to find out ghosts and vampires aren't the only things that go bump in the night...

Singers are a dime a dozen in Nashville, so despite her mama's urging, psychic Ariana Ryder's working her way towards a career in law enforcement at the FBI, one tray of fetched coffee at a time, instead. She's got an extremely handsome boss, a dancing partner among the lab techs, and a solid year as the team rookie under her belt...

Right until the director gives her a big break, working undercover as a singer at a club to investigate why it's being targeted by a serial killer. This might have worked better if the club didn’t happen to be a vampire nest.

Now, with the vampires' investigator, Quil, on the case, the sparks are flying and the jurisdictional battle isn't the only thing heating up as they race to solve the case before the killer strikes again!
Psychic Undercover (With The Undead) (The SDF Paranormal Mysteries Book 1) by [Gibbons, Amie]So, Amie Gibbons is both an author and a lawyer -- but please don't hold that last part against her. Thankfully, unlike other lawyers like John Grisham or Scott Turow, she doesn't make a point of inflicting her law degree on the readership.

Like most UF, it's a first person narrator, and Ariana is well defined, and certainly a product of her environment. A Nashville girl with a mother who's a romance novelist and her father is a former marine and a politician. She's girly, and as professional as the plot allows ... read it, you'll understand. I especially liked that she has a fear of "being trapped. I get the same reaction when I'm lost or stuck in traffic" ... which apparently explains her driving. Heh. Short version, imagine Kristen Chenoweth as our protagonist.

For the record, I have to point out that the description above only spills the plot up to chapter 3. Which I appreciate. I've had some problems with other novels that spoil up to half way through the book.

The book has a good sense of pacing, as well as a sense of humor and world building. I like the sense of vampire society, as well as the fact that Gibbons have vampires who are still largely predators by nature. (While this does have a romantic male lead who is a vampire, it's pointed out more than a few times that he's very, very different from the rest of the vampire society -- even the people he's friends with or works with). I'd like more elaboration about the way vampires are developed, but that's for later books, I'm sure.

The portrayal of the feds in the book is far more fluid than I've come to expect from the FBI. For anyone who thinks the feds aren't this thoughtful, creative, or fluid in their thinking ... well, that's because this is a world without professional monster bounty hunters, and where the FBI must actually solve crimes and have a certain flexibility about them. All of the traditional FBI agents (rigid, glorified bureaucrats) have probably been eaten by this point in the timeline. Not to mention that the character arc in the first novel explains that yes, this FBI team is different than most, if only because they have to incorporate care and feeding of their pet psychic into their team. Gibbons takes pains to point out that yes, this is a strange group of Feds to start with. (Also, the NY stereotypes were a little grating after a while).  If you have a problem with the portrayal of the FBI, at least finished up to the end of Chapter 10. It's self explanatory.

One of my few quibbles with in the book is her superior officer. Not because of he character or his mentality -- he's the most like what one would expect from the FBI in this novel. I even like that he holds his private meetings in the bathroom (not the elevator?), or that he summons if you mention his name too often (why yes, I think he is related to Gibbs). And he will even defend his people against his superiors -- the only way they die is if he kills them. Except his name is Grant, and Ariana keeps calling him General... which strikes me as something I wouldn't want to do in the South to someone I liked. Seriously, you want him shot?

The other quibbles are minor. The narrator uses phrases that are jarring. I presume they're local. Also, have Spotify handy. There are multiple song references kicking around I've never heard of. There is also a reference to "Why don't they use silver bullets?" -- but if Larry Correia has taught me anything, silver is too hard to be a bullet, and it wouldn't rifle properly. But that's a narrator problem, not an author problem (again, our narrator is a rookie).

All in all, Psychic Undercover (with the Undead) was a solid book one, with a built-in book two, at once creating a continuing plot without anyone feeling cheated by this plot. It is definitely a five star book, without question -- especially if you're looking for something in the female led UR / PNR genre. She's better than most -- I'm looking at you Sookie and Anita. This may lean only slightly more PNR than UR, but it's serviceable as either. She's better than Lynsay Sands, as good as Kerrlyn Sparks, and more entertaining than the last five of Sherrilyn Kenyon's novels.

Click here to get Psychic Undercover (with the Undead).

Friday, August 23, 2019

Music Blog: Sonata Arctica - Fullmoon

This was a fun one. I don't know the group outside of the cover song. Or the song.

But then again, it's a song about werewolves.

It's one of the songs I used while writing the Saint Tommy series.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Review: Somewhither, by John C Wright

Everyone knows the phrase "down the rabbit hole." It's an Alice in Wonderland reference, where the main character is in their normal, everyday life one moment, then in someplace utterly insane the next. Reality is utterly, totally, and completely different.

For John C. Wright's Somewhither, the rabbit hole wasn't good enough. No. We needed an inter-dimensional portal that opens up to an invading army, sucking our hero into a realm that makes Wonderland look positively friendly and harmless.
Ilya, as he has secretly dreamed, is called upon to save the mad scientist's beautiful daughter. With his squirrel gun, his grandfather's sword, and his father's crucifix, Ilya races to save the girl, and, incidentally, the world.

So it is, Ilya Muromets is a big, ugly, motherless boy who does not look like anyone else in his Oregon town. His father is often absent on mysterious Church missionary work that involves silver bullets, sacred lances, and black helicopters. One night, Professor Dreadful sends a warning to Ilya that his Many Worlds theory correct, but that his experiments have opened a door that should have remained closed, and his beautiful daughter, Penny, is in trouble.

The 2016 Dragon Award-winner for Best Science Fiction Novel, Somewhither is the first part of A Tale of the Unwithering Realm, a new science-fantasy series from science-fiction master John C. Wright. It is an adventure, it is a romance, and it is a coming-of-age story of a young man who is not a man, in a world that is only one among many. It is a tale of a greater and darker evil with longer reach than anything he could imagine, of pain beyond measure, and of the faith required to surmount all three. It is a story of inexorable destiny written in the stars and the stubborn courage that is required to defy it.
Somewhither: The Unwithering Realm by [Wright, John C.]I loved this book. It was so delightfully insane, and so marvelously put together. I enjoyed it from the first page. Especially as our hero narrates that this was all for a girl named Penny Dreadful.

.... Yes. He went there. It doesn't even stop there. If you folks think my writing is proof that I'm a smartass, you have got to read Somewhither. And this is just page one. Which includes the line "If you blame the damsel in distress, you are not the hero."

The opening chapters may be a little slow to people who are not nerds. But you're reading a book that's one part scifi and one part fantasy. If you are not nerdy enough to enjoy Wright's conversation about the how's and why's (and why nots) of branching timelines and alternate universes, why are you even reading this review?

But this is John C. Wright. He can probably describe paint drying in an entertaining fashion. Especially when he describes one incident with the supercollider as "let's just say over a dozen scientists, staff members, and visitors were electrocuted, microwaved, and Hiroshima'd."

I told you he could make anything entertaining. There's even an entire conversation between Ilya and his father ... during which you realize that things aren't all that normal with this family ("Now Ilya, you've known that since you were twelve, when we taught you quantum mechanics." Huh?). The punchline of this conversation ends with one of the most awesome reveals that I've seen in a while, and more or less backhands Stephen Pinker into next Tuesday, casually and easily, in one paragraph.

And the lovely little dissertations along the way are charming, and so un-PC, it's delightful. There's a conversation on lovely damsels. Or getting two halves of the brain arguing with each other lest they gang up on the hero to stop him from heroics. (The note I made on points like this is "Remember when Peter David was funny? Pepperidge farm remembers.")

After Ilya falls into another world, and the plot gets off to a running start, one of the running gags throughout the novel involves language. Let's just say that I think that if John C. Wright wrote Lord of the Rings, he would have sentence diagrammed elvish.

Once we get to meet the villains, they are delightfully evil pricks. In a world where astrology is an accurate science, and fate is everything, even some of the men running the evil empire are trapped. It strikes me very much like the Persian empire -- "freedom" wasn't even a word in the language. It's not in this language, either. Neither is "right and wrong." Funny that. They are so unambiguously evil, even the narrator points out
"On principle, I was not helping any group that called itself The Darkest Tower against places called the Great Golden City and Land of Light. That was a no-brainer. I mean, get serious. Suppose you were from another world and came to ours circa 1940 and you saw an SS officer in his black uniform with the silver skulls on his collar, and he said he wanted to exterminate some folks called The Chosen People from some place called The Holy Land, who would you think the bad guy was?"
Despite how obviously evil the adversaries are, they are not shallow evil. There is a bit reminiscent of Sam and Frodo being Shanghaied by orcs -- Ilya is given a tour of The Tower by a creature that even Richard Sharpe would have identified as a Sergeant just by his banter. In it, we get a perfect picture of a Screwtape bureaucracy where Ilya concludes that the empire "is all full of bureaucrats and lawyers? This place is hell."

Also, there is a lot of casual bits of humor scattered throughout. Such as the misattributions ("There is an old saying: if you want peace, prepare for war. I think it is in the Bible or something."). And the little shots scattered throughout this novel are so much fun to behold. There's the "Professor Dreadful" referred to in the blurb, who is a "Harvard trained symbologist" (to which Ilya's father replies, "Amazing what they give degrees in these days.") And the Templars are the good guys. (Dan Brown felt that one,) The bad guys of the piece are from The Dark Tower. And all of the evil sorcerers carry golden compasses (snicker). Some of the warnings of prophecy are right out of Lovecraft. When Ilya hears that someone is a ringbearer, he says, "You mean like at a wedding? Or do you mean like Sam Gamgee carrying Albrecht's ring when it got too heavy for Tom Covenant?"

Even the casual comments about other timelines are entertaining ("Dude, my planet is run by Prussians .... You need paperwork to get permission to go to the outhouse.")

Then there's the bit that compared Fantasy Island to The Tempest. I feel like Wright has a lot of stuff in his head and it's all stacked on top of each other.

And I swear the entire building of the final team is a reference to the X-Men, only interesting and without the angst. (We have an unkillable killing Machine. A wind manipulator called a "Cloud Walker". A ninja. A Norse Shadow meets Moon Knight. The monster that chased Bugs Bunny. Captain Nemo. And at least one reference to Lady Hawk.) Though I'm relatively certain that Wright was going for a D&D campaign given how often he comments on character classes.

For the record, I feel I must note the sections that boil down to torture porn. If I didn't know better, I would swear that Wright was a fan of Hellraiser.

If I were to sum up this book in one phrase, it would be "Anime Narnia." Thus, it would have a ton more action, epic fantasy, and make most of the golden era pulps look slow. Yes, there is a slow part here, but that's mostly a horror element.

Of course, this book ends on a cliffhanger.

Thankfully, the next book is already out.  So get Somewhither today, and get the sequel immediately after it.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Review: Gemini Man

This one came out, and I have to tell you, it's about flipping time. I read this book months ago. I probably should have written up the review immediately, but I was more interested in finishing the bloody books that came in around them.

So, anyway, this is JD Cowan's book -- Gemini Man.
A steady paycheck. A simple job. Absolutely no contact with another human being.
The night shift at a science lab sounds like the break Matthew White has been waiting for. A steady paycheck. A simple job. Absolutely no contact with another human being.

It’s perfect.

But Matthew gets more than he bargained for when he accepts a different position with the company. A job that is highly paid – and highly bizarre. He is plunged into the terrible machinations of his new boss, Mrs. Stohl, and a sullen teenaged boy named Jason is along for the ride. The fact that Jason is practically his twin only makes it all creepier.

Dragged through a mirror into an alien dimension, Matthew is in way over his head. He should have known the job was too good to be true. To escape, Matthew and Jason must brave the wilds of this new universe and learn to control their new powers.

And hardest of all, Matthew must learn to be a hero.

Will they escape Mrs. Stohl’s terrible plans for them? Can they make it home to their world, or will they be trapped in the mirror dimension forever?

Join Matthew and Jason on their pulp superhero adventure. Read Gemini Warrior today!
Gemini Warrior: A Heroes Unleashed Novel (Gemini Man Book 1) by [Cowan, J.D., Plutarch, Thomas]
This was was different in many respects from the previous Silver Empire superhero universe novels. The other books were largely character based. This is both character and world based. Which makes for an interesting shift in tone and execution.

Even the tone is markedly different at times from the other novels. There are a few sections in the opening where you can imagine it being from a black and white movie, where Edward G Robinson or Jimmy Cagney is spitting out dialogue in a solid, entertaining rant. It's one of the nice things about having a shared universe spread out among so many different authors. Even the descriptions of persons and actions seem very noir.

And when the description says that this is a pulp superhero adventure, this is less the Shadow, and more Flash Gordon. We even have an evil emperor who has magic powers (come now, Ming could walk through fire, and the "science" was more magic than anything else), as well as other super powered lackeys to do his bidding. And much of the villains look like they utilize a combination of mad science and magic in order to wield unearthly forces at their command.

... And yes, I did recently watch the complete Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon serials. Why do you ask?

As for our characters ... When we meet heroes Jason and Matthew, it's fun watching the inevitable train wreck coming their way. One of the opening scenes involve locking the two of them in a room together so they can get to know each other. We soon find that while they are of similar temperament, most of their opinions are diametrically opposed to each other.

I'm looking at the note I made on the Kindle edition. "We're going to link these two at the hip, aren't we?" Yes, yes we are. And we're going to give them the code names of Castor and Pollux, because JD is that literate, and superheros are just that subtle.

So we have another, well developed world, and evil dictator wielding magic to rule over the world. We have random encounters and fights with potential friends.

Over all, I enjoyed it. Do I think it's the best of the heroes thus far? Nope. I think that award goes to the next in the sequence. In any sane system, It would be a mid-range novel -- a solid setup to an interesting universe that I would get the next books in order to see where it ends up. But given that Amazon has turned a 3-star rating to "critical," (No, Amazon, I LIKED this book) I'm going to have to give this 4 out of five stars.

Get Gemini Man here, today. And enjoy.

My wife left me last month

My wife left me last month and went to Texas.

Two weeks ago, I went down and picked her up, helping her out for both of those weeks.

For the record, she went to Texas to help a friend of ours who was recently widowed.

Then I discovered how many people I personally know who live in Texas... and they all seem to be in the same area. It's all very nice. And I think I would like to move there. I might even garner a social life. Who knows?

Saint Tommy, NYPD Box Set: Books 1-3 by [Finn, Declan]Anyway, stuff is happening in the background. I can't imagine any of it I can actually say just yet.

What I can say involves....


Also, I have a new series coming out soon. These are older books that still hold up... and they're all over 120,000 words. So either these are going to be slightly more expensive, or they're going to be broken up into individual novels. Or both.

And they're going to be self published.

Why? Because My publisher is busy, I don't want to drop even more on them, and they already have Saint Tommy book 6, and three books of a space opera en route. They need more work from me like they need a hole in the head.

You'll also note that these are long books for me. Longer than most books published by people in my circles. Probably three times as long as any James Patterson novel. It's what happens when I didn't know any better -- I knew that books were 300-500 pages long. So, I made sure my books were that long.... except they were single-spaced, 8 x 11 sized pages.

So these thrillers were long.

They were also from a period in my life when I was reading two series -- Modest Blaise, by Peter O'Donnell, and the Bourne series by Robert Ludlum. The end result is a fun bit of action and no realism if I can avoid it.

But they'll be coming soon enough.

But the short version is that we're back. The blog is coming back. I'm doing a bunch of review for books I read while I was away.

I'm still doing live streams on Facebook at the Silver Empire page. So if you're interested, I'm there once a week. I'm also trying to start a few other things... you know, because I don't have enough work to do.

But it's me. Not working isn't something I do.