Tag Archives: reading

Recent Reading

I recognize that I haven’t been posting regularly here.  Haven’t had much writing related news to post, and there’s been a lot going on in my personal life.  But here’s a quick update on the reading I’ve done recently.

I read three books by John Everson:  COVENANT, SACRIFICE and REDEMPTION.  It’s a trilogy, and the first introduces us to Joe Kieran, a reporter who has fled the big city (Chicago) to go to a small town where he longs for the type of real reporting he used to do.  When a kid commits suicide, Joe sees the opportunity to investigate, but he is dissuaded by the powers that be in town and at the newspaper.  It seems that the town has some sort of deal with a demon, and the deal requires the sacrifice of some teenagers.  But there’s more to it, and as Joe investigates, he learns what’s really going on.

The next two books feature some of the same characters, but are really different stories.  They talk about an invasion of our Earth by a demonic race.  Lots of violence and sex, maybe too much.  I felt the last was the weakest of the bunch.  These were horror stories, and definitely not for everyone.

I followed up by reading K.D. Kinney’s post-apocalyptic story, HIGH PRESSURE SYSTEM:  FIRST SEASON UNDERGROUND.  This was originally released as a serial, but I read the combined edition.  In this one, humans are herded into underground bunkers to avoid the extreme weather.  We learn that man has learned to control the weather, and subsequently turned that control over to an AI.  Now the AI has decided to exterminate humankind, and all that’s left are the people in these bunkers.

This was a very good story and was a take that I haven’t seen or read elsewhere, though I have heard that others have done something similar.  I cared about the main characters almost right away.  I’m looking forward to the second “season.”

Then I finished CHILD OF MINE by V.J. Chambers.  This one was a psychological thriller where a mom (who happens to be retired from the FBI as a profiler) starts to suspect her borderline-autistic son of the killing of some young women.  The evidence seems to mount up as she investigates, and there’s a cop who would like nothing better than to hurt her and won’t stop at doing so through her son.

This one is really good as well.  I had a hard time putting it down, needing to know who the culprit was, if not her son Simon (who I was pretty sure was innocent).  Well written and solidly plotted, I was almost disappointed to reach the end of the story.

So that’s it for now.  I recommend the last two without reservation, and I recommend Everson’s stories for anyone who likes so-called “erotic horror.”

*****

Two new post-apocalyptic tales

A couple of new post-apocalyptic stories came out recently:

The first is by Aden Cabro, and is called HARRIER HUNT (ISLAND SURVIVAL BOOK 2).  It’s more of a novella, a short quick read that is fast-paced with solid writing and good characters.  I’m looking forward to Book 3.  Here’s the link:  HARRIER HUNT

The second is by M.P. McDonald, and it is called ISOLATION:  SYMPATICO SYNDROME BOOK 2.   I’m not done with it, but so far it’s started strong.  I cared about the characters in book 1, and this one is continuing their story believably and with just the right balance of technical stuff with human stuff.  Here’s the link:  ISOLATION

Both are currently $0.99.  That may change, so grab them soon!

*****

Recent reads

I finished a couple of very good thrillers recently.  First was Steven M. Moore’s GAIA AND THE GOLIATHS. This was the seventh Chen-and-Castilblanco mystery, and it deals with eco-terrorism and murder. It takes the reader from New York to Europe and also involves Moore’s Dutch Interpol agent Bastian van Coevorden on that end. It’s a well-constructed mystery that presents a balanced picture of the world of environmental activism along with several little nods to what’s going on in American politics today (the story is set a short time in the future, I believe).  As I’ve come to expect from Steve Moore, this is a really interesting, thought-provoking read right from the beginning.  Chen and Castilblanco are great characters, too.

The second was Steve Richer’s THE POPE’S SUICIDE.  Like Richer’s THE PRESIDENT KILLED HIS WIFE, this takes an unlikely crime involving a world leader and turns it around this way and that way.  There are many layers of intrigue going on here, and I found it to be a can’t-put-it-down type of book.  When the Pope is found hanging in his shower, suicide is the apparent cause.  But of course it can’t be that simple, not to mention the complications that a Pope’s suicide would cause for the Catholic Church.  Detective Donny Beecher is going through a rough time of his own, marriage falling apart and teen daughter rebelling and getting into some things that Dad wouldn’t approve of.  And he’s assigned as the lead detective for the investigation.  Solid plotting and writing make this a top notch read.  Now I have to go read THE KENNEDY SECRET.

Last, I read CRYSTAL CREEK by William Malmborg.  In this one, a paranormal investigator goes to a small town in Washington State where Bigfoot has been sighted, and a woman has disappeared.  Crystal Creek barely exists anymore, but there is still an inn, a police department, a diner, and a newspaper.  And everyone left in this little town seems to have a secret of some sort.  It’s a great premise and a good story.  If I have a bit of a problem with it, it’s that I didn’t care about the characters too much.  I don’t know why, but they didn’t make me feel that they were worth worrying about.  Everything about the story is well done, and it’s a good, fast read.  (As an aside, is it horror?  A thriller?  Whatever it is, what makes it that?)

So there you have it — three good solid books by indie authors.  Check them out!

*****

Recent Reading

I haven’t been posting much here, but I couldn’t get through the entire month of March without at least one entry, so here it is.

I recently read a couple of non-fiction books.  First was The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis.  Yeah, it’s the same guy who wrote The Big Short and Moneyball.  I can’t say I liked this one as much as I liked some of his other works.  It just didn’t seem as focused.  In the end, I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be about the people he was talking about or about the ideas they came up with, or about the impact of those ideas on our everyday lives.  Maybe it was about all of those, but in the past he’s focused more on one recognizable goal and used the other parts to illuminate that goal.  It was an interesting read, but just not as good as some of his others.

The other non-fiction book I finished was Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  Now this one made me think.  It’s about success and the role that chance plays in that success.  It doesn’t say that success can come without hard work and a willingness to correct things that might be causing you to veer away from a successful outcome, but it does say that there is a lot of “right place at the right time” involved in peoples’ success.  For example, did you know that an inordinate amount of professional hockey players (at least in Canada) have birthdays in January, February and March?  Why would that be?  It can’t be just a random thing.  It turns out that many of the youth hockey programs have age-cutoff dates of January 1st.  So because of that, kids born in those months are simply older and bigger than other athletes at a period of time in their young lives when a few months can make a large difference physically.  So these are the kids who are a little bit more physically developed and they stand out, so they get selected for all-star teams and traveling teams and such, and get better coaching and more practice time.  And it keeps going until they actually ARE the best players.

I found that take to ring true, even in writing.  Sure, there are things you can control.  You can control the quality of your own writing and storytelling.  You can work to get better.  You can edit and proofread and take advice and criticism from your “team.”  You can work on your covers and on your blurbs.  You can market your works in such a way to increase their visibility, and when something doesn’t work, you can try something else that might work better.

But you can’t write what you can’t write.  If you write in a relatively unpopular genre, like I do (horror), you might just be stuck.  Conversely, if you write in a genre that tends to have voracious readers who stay in that genre, like romance, you might do a lot better.  Or psychological thrillers, or erotica.  Apparently those sell better in e-books.  If you’re just getting started today, you may find yourself with more of an uphill climb than if you had started right after the Kindle came out and e-books really became a thing.  Or if your stories just don’t strike a chord with readers, you are not positioned to take advantage of the market trends that are out there.

Luck might just be described as being in the right place at the right time.  It might be that you published your book on a day that, for whatever reason, it became more visible and grabbed the attention of more people so that it became ranked highly and thus became more visible.  It might be described as already being positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.

Even Joe Konrath admits that “luck” played a part in his own phenomenal success as an indie author.  Here’s just one post of many he has dealing with the subject.  (The comments are great, being from respected authors like Blake Crouch, Jude Hardin and Mark Terry, to name a few.)

Anyway, I got a bit sidetracked.

I’m currently reading Creativity, Inc.:  Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand In the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull, president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation, with Amy Wallace.

I’m also reading some fiction, but I think I’ll make another post (with links to what I’ve read) soon.  Before the end of March, for sure!

*****

Superheroes in Thriller Fiction

A few years back, I read three books in a row that sort of opened my eyes to the use of some sort of super human in crime/thriller fiction. The first was Greg Iles’ The Devil’s Punchbowl, the second was Robert Crais’ The First Rule, and the third was C.J. Box’s Cold Wind. Let me throw in Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar series with this bunch.

It struck me as I read, that each hero/protagonist was aided by someone with almost superhuman abilities. In the three mentioned books all of them were Special Forces types. Iles’ main character is attorney Penn Cage, and I love his Natchez southern settings. In this book, however, Cage is up against really really bad guys involved with a floating casino, and he calls a guy to help out – an ex-Seal named Daniel Kelly. Kelly and his guys are so good it’s scary in itself. You’re certainly glad they’re on your side.

In the second book, Crais steps away from Elvis Cole, his usual protagonist, to allow Cole’s sidekick, Joe Pike, to move front and center. Pike is another Special Forces type, though I’m not sure about what branch. Totally confident and as tough as nails. And he’s got those Special Forces skills that make him seem invincible.

In the third book, CJ Box’s protagonist is a rather normal game warden named Joe Pickett. But Joe is friends with a guy named Nate Romanowski, who is wanted by the government. Nate is another scary-good ex-Special Forces type whose plans always seem to work out.

I threw in Bolitar’s name because he has his buddy Win Lockhorn, the prissy rich guy who (along with Myron) has some sort of Special Forces training and who also always seems to know he’s going to win. Fortunately for the good guys, he always has, so far.

Some of the other thriller series feature guys who are scary good at what they do, like Jack Reacher of the Lee Child series, or Lincoln Rhyme, the quadraplegic genius of Jeffrey Deaver’s books.

About the only guy who is really good but isn’t exactly a superhuman is Harry Bosch. But he’s close.

Just some stuff that crossed my mind as I knocked out those three books.  Does one “need” a superhero, invincible-type character in order to make things work in these sorts of thrillers?  If you can think of other examples, please post them in the comments.

*****

READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline

This book was, for me, one of those special reads.  I could barely put it down.  Bought it at a little indie bookstore on Mackinac Island (The Island Bookstore) with the intention of getting to it someday.  Well, my son read the description and started it, and he could barely put it down.

I finished what I was reading  and picked it up a couple of days ago.  And that was it.  Every spare minute I had I grabbed the book and read.  Finished it this morning between patients, and I have to say that it kept me sucked into the story the whole time.

Anyone read it?

It’s dystopian, in that the real world has devolved into a dirty, poverty-stricken dump.  Wade, the first-person hero of the book, lives in something called “the Stacks” which are vertical trailer parks.  Made me think of the way they park cars in NYC (we don’t do ’em like that in Chicago) where you pull into an elevator of sorts and they hoist your car to the top, then put one under you, and another, and finally, the one on the ground.  They stack up the trailers (even some VW minibuses) in metal frameworks, and people live in them.  Cheap and efficient, but not very desirable.

Wade’s truly happy in the OASIS, a massive virtual world where humanity more or less conducts their lives in this depressing world.  It was designed by a computer nerd named James Halliday, who recently died (at the beginning of the book) and has set into motion a huge on-line quest, the winner of which will get his vast fortune and control of his company.  An evil corporate entity, IOI, wants to win, and is  hiring the best people they can hire to find this Easter egg, and they will literally stop at nothing, including murder, to get there first.  But the true “best” egg hunters, known as ‘gunters,’ are guys like Wade and others who by some combination of luck and brains, find the first key after 5 years of no one having a bit of success in locating it.

I loved the 80’s references (and 70’s references; a lot of the movies and songs and even video games seem to be from the later 1970s as well as the 80’s) and I loved the characters, and I loved the suspense of seeing how Wade and his compatriots would defeat the evil corporation and find the final key and win the game.  Plus, there was the added suspense about just who some of these gunters are.  I mean, all Wade ever sees is their on-line personas, and he clearly believes that it is enough to know whether he can trust them and be friends with them.

I liked the message at the end.  It felt right.

I don’t know if it’s a great book, but for me, it WAS a great book, one I’ll probably read again someday.

*****

New (to me) Thrillers!

I recently found two authors who I decided to try, and found that I enjoyed their works.  I’ll be reading more of both.

Steve Richer is one.  I read his TERROR BOUNTY and enjoyed it quite a bit.  Here’s my Amazon review:

This was my first exposure to the thrillers of Steve Richer, and I’m gonna be going back for more! It was a fast-paced trip through the world of international terrorism and intrigue, and I had trouble putting it down. I loved the main characters (Rick and Olivia) and even though the idea that an amateur could just waltz into this world and accomplish what needed to be accomplished, in the end, I bought into it because it was such a fun story.

I’ll be trying more of Richer’s works.

I enjoyed reading about the terrorist’s ideas on the state of the world, which are juxtaposed with his murderous actions.  Nothing is black and white, in the book, or in the world…

Here’s the link to see it on Amazon:  TERROR BOUNTY by Steve Richer.

Another author is M.P. McDonald.  She uses a supernatural or magical device (a camera that takes pictures of future tragedies somehow) to allow her main characters to get into position to be involved with crimes and/or terrorism.  I’ve read three of McDonald’s books so far and enjoyed all of them.  Here’s my Amazon review of one of them:

I really enjoyed this thriller, which hinges on the unlikely existence of a camera that shows the future. There were great characters, tense situations, and a nice resolution. I’ve already read its sequel, CAPTURE, and will review that at some point in the future.

Short but to the point.   McDonald has written a series of five other books about Mark Taylor, the original owner of the camera.  I’ve read one of those, the first-in-series NO GOOD DEEDS, and enjoyed it quite a bit.  The two CJ Sheridan books were a lot of fun and quite tense at times.

Here’s the link to see SHOOT on Amazon:  SHOOT by M.P. McDonald.

Some very good, new-to-me- reads.

*****

Still here…

I haven’t disappeared.  I just haven’t had anything much to post on the blog.  But I have been writing a bit, and reading quite a bit.  So I thought that I’d just sort of list some of the things I’ve been working on, and give a couple of shout-outs to books I’ve read as well.

I finished up a 27K horror novella called NEVER ENDING NIGHT.  Actually, it’s been finished for a while, but I finally went back and reread it and formatted it for uploading.  I played with some covers but I’m not sure I like them.

I’ve been writing on a post-apocalyptic tale that started life as a piece being written in Hugh Howey’s WOOL universe.  I finished the first part, about a group of college students who get wind of an upcoming “event” and try to build a shelter to wait it out.  Then, as I wrote that part, one of the college kids up and left without explanation, then so did her boyfriend, so I wrote their story as they are invited to a shelter in Texas.  Then I thought, nothing is 100% fatal except nerve gas, and so I made this one, like, 99.8% fatal, and another story I had started a while ago ended up being a story of some of the few survivors of this biological agent.  I’ve been writing on that one.  It’s been fun to tell these stories.

Also a while ago, I decided to expand ODD MAN OUT into a longer story, perhaps a novella or a short novel.  So I’ve been working on that one somewhat diligently.  I’m around 21,500 words now (the original story was something around 1800 words, I think).

Then I started something set in the fictional upstate NY community of Addison Falls.  The shared world comes from back in the 1990’s when a bunch of us on a Delphi forum called The Horror Discussion Group created a bunch of common characters along with our own original characters in order to write stories set in this world.  Well, the stories (for the most part) died when the forum became inactive after the host (Bookhound) passed away at a very young age.  I have a story in my DIE 6 collection that was written back around that time in Addison Falls (THE GHOST TRAIN), and I thought that it might be fun to write a novel set in that town.  I decided to once again do missing kids, but this time I am going to focus on a math teacher at the high school and his friend/something more(?) newspaper reporter.  I’ve written about 18K words in that story, and I’ve been adding to it a little at a time.  No end is in sight.

Last, I started a story back in the late 1980’s that was also postapocalyptic, set in a small Wisconsin town after a disease claims all the adults.  I decided to expand that one as well, including three more settings, and bouncing back and forth between the four places to tell the story of kids coming together and conflicting in each.  I now call it INHERIT THE EARTH, and I think it’s pretty interesting.  (I tossed out all the boring parts and rewrote most of it.)  I think it stands at something around 20K or maybe a bit more.  No end in sight on this one, either.

Reading:  I’ve knocked out some pretty good books.  I read all of Kate Wrath’s E series, five books in all.  I finished Orson Scott Card’s VISITORS and Paul Draker’s NEW YEAR ISLAND (wish I would have tried that one sooner, because it was really good).  I read William Malmborg’s Halloween homage, SANTA TOOK THEM, and J. Stirling Robertson’s SEPSIS.  Then I finished two or three Robert Crais books, including the non-Pike, non-Cole book SUSPECT.  Lots of good reads in there.  Those are the ones I can remember off the top of my head and skimming the Kindle.

I hope to be a bit more active here in the future.  And I hope to have a new book announcement soon.

Take care.

*****

 

Independent Fiction

I was looking at the books I’ve downloaded on my Kindle and they are probably 95% by indie authors.  That’s pretty amazing, really, considering that a few years ago I didn’t know anything about the field.

I remember how I started downloading books by indie authors.  The first one I did was a book called BONE SHOP by Tim “TA” Pratt.  It is an urban fantasy, the fifth book in a series that had previously been published by a BPH imprint but was dropped after the fourth book.  Why, I don’t exactly know.  Was it not selling?  I bought the first four at Barnes and Noble bookstores, where they had exactly one copy on the shelf.  I always looked when I’d go back in to see if they had anything else by Pratt, and once I bought the single copy of whichever they had, well, that was it.

I was following a blog of editor Annetta Ribken on Journalscape back in the day, before she was an editor.  She had a very entertaining blog, and she was working on a novel, which was released as ATHENA’S PROMISE.  She decided to release it indie via Kindle and Createspace, and I bought the ebook of that one as well.  Both of those ebooks costed $4.99, which, at the time, I considered a bargain.  Now I consider it a premium that I’m willing to pay for authors I like.  Even then, I think twice about it.  “Just how much do I want to read this book right now?”

I started thinking that if Annetta could do it that way, so could I.  Another author-friend who I met at Chicago’s Printer’s Row Festival, Sean Hayden, was working with a small press, editing and writing his own fiction.  He and his significant other, Jen Wylie, opened their own small press called Untold Press, and began publishing their own fiction as well as a few other authors.  Yeah, it’s technically a small press, but it started as a way of indie publishing their own works.

Connecting the dots, I found the blogs of Dean Wesley Smith and J.A. Konrath, and then I found Hugh Howey.  WOOL was, for me, a revelation.  It was engrossing — I couldn’t hardly put it down when I purchased it as an ebook.  Howey’s story was almost as engrossing.  He put the book out in shorter installments, five of them, at $0.99 each, then compiled them into the single edition at $4.99.  And Hugh was making a killing financially, or so it seems.

I found “The Passive Voice” and answered a submissions call for a SF anthology called QUANTUM ZOO, and lo and behold, mine was one of the twelve stories accepted for publication in the volume.  If nothing else, it validated me in my own eyes as a writer.

From Konrath’s blog, I read a comment by author Steven M. Moore, and somehow realized that he wrote SF and thrillers, and I followed the link to his blog, and now I’ve read everything he’s written save (I think) two books.  (I’ll correct that oversight this year.)  I also found horror novels by Bryan Smith and by William Malmborg, which led me again to other horror novelists.

Now I’m reading one indie work after another, generally.  (I am trying to get a good run into Robert Crais’ third Joe Pike novel, called THE SENTRY, but haven’t found the time to get into it much.)  I am in the midst of a series (starting with E) by Kate Wrath.  I’m reading Mit Sandru’s novels.  I read Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, John Ellsworth, Bobby Adair, and Edward W. Robertson.

I’ve found tons of the fiction I want to read, and I haven’t broken the bank buying all these books.

Not to mention, I’ve become an indie author myself, with a bunch of short stories and collections out as well as two novellas.

Buy indie.  Cut out that middle man!

*****