Monday, August 29, 2011

Recommended Reading - Rex Rising

Hera banged her fist on the desk. Nobody outside the Undercurrent was supposed to know the importance of Pelia’s work. Pelia had been betrayed.

A traitor walked among them.

Icy sweat trickled down Hera’s spine and her hands trembled. Knowing she had no time for a breakdown, she shoved her fear deep inside its box. A quick search of the message pool showed her that the shipment had not yet been found. She sagged in her chair, releasing a pent-up breath. Then who had it?

Treachery, murder, sinister government agents, air cars and paranoia... I could go on, but the author has a book trailer that gives you the scoop better than I can.

Read Rex Rising at Smashwords

Friday, August 26, 2011

Barbaric Fun

Yes, I'm boosting my own book.  It's my blog; I'm allowed to.  Besides, it's a good book.  You'll like it.  Here's my new synopsis, hot off of the keyboard:

It all started when he tried to end it all.

Bert Hoover jumps from a bridge, only to be rudely rescued by a flying saucer. The aliens aren't doing him any favours, though. They take him to the backward planet of Mardalu, where he is captured and enslaved by the brutal alien Morans. His only friend, Janice, has been sold into slavery as well.

Escape won’t be easy, especially for a chronic under-achiever. But Bert, tormented by memories of a time he failed a friend, knows he must do better this time. He breaks out of the pit, the vast underground prison where human slaves are held.

Once outside, he's deep in Moran territory, pursued by Rath, the implacable slave master. Harried and hunted, Bert makes it to human territory. He's done the impossible, but now he has to do the unthinkable: sneak back into Moran territory to find Janice.

Janice, meanwhile, is battling for her life in a dungeon beneath the Moran palace. A sadistic slave gets to choose who is sacrificed each month to the monstrous Gooal. Janice can only survive by seeing others die in her place. When the price becomes too high, it is Janice who is slated for death.

Aided by Garron, a Moran orphan, Bert is a refugee on the fringes of Moran society, always searching for clues of Janice. With time running out and Rath drawing closer, Bert finds the courage to face his enemies and attempt a daring rescue. Now all he needs to do is pluck Janice from the jaws of death, escape from Rath, and maybe even find a way back to Earth.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Interview With the Vampire Author

Today I have a special treat for you, an interview with Julie Dawson of Bards and Sages Publishing.  Julie has written a dark and riveting vampire novel called A Game of Blood.

A Game of Blood includes a quotation from HP Lovecraft, and themes that would be familiar to any Lovecraft fan.  Your protagonist, Detective Grogan, grapples with unspeakable horror, and his very sanity is at risk.  Are you influenced by Lovecraft?  How has this impacted the writing of this novel?
I have always felt that the thing that made Lovecraft’s work so terrifying was the fact that these insanely powerful entities were not engaging humanity as rivals or adversaries or even useful pawns in some cosmic game, but just didn’t care about us.  We humans have this tendency to think we are the center of the cosmos.  And yet here was Lovecraft presenting these beings who honestly thought no more about humans than we think about ants.  Most of Lovecraft’s work isn’t about some monster going out to cause chaos and destroy humanity.  It isn’t some epic struggle between good and evil.  No, it is usually about some human accidentally stumbling upon something they should never have seen, and the entity suddenly thinking “Oh, a human” kind of like we would think “Oh, a mosquito.”
There is also the underlying theme in Lovecraft’s work that we are not nearly as smart as we think we are, and that there are all sorts of things going on around us that we are oblivious to.  Whether it is actual ignorance of our surroundings or wilful ignorance to shut out unpleasant thoughts, there is the notion that the world we think we know is not what we think it is.  That was one of the things I wanted to examine.  In the book, Mitch is less horrified by the reality that vampires exist than by the fact that they have been able to function, in complete secret, for so many centuries.  And the more he digs, the more he sees, and the more it terrifies him.

Vampires get a lot of different treatments these days.  Comedic, romantic, dramatic, we've even seen vampires as private detectives. But you've taken the vampire story back to its roots.  A Game of Blood is horror, and your vampire is a monster.  How did you choose this portrayal of vampires?  I know that Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot was an early influence for you as a writer.  What else inspired you in your vision of the vampire Darius Hawthorne?
The novel actually started off as a short story.  I call it my “Anti-Twilight” tale.  What would a “real” vampire do with a love struck girl with a romantic interest in vampires?  I’ve often joked that the whole “vampire as love interest” thing is actually a vampire plot to make it easier to feed.  So that was part of the direction of the original short story.  When I was finished with the story, however, I realized Darius needed a bigger stage.  
What I tried to do is look at the vampire from both a folklore level and a psychological level.  People who read the book are going to recognize the vampires are close to a lot of the Eastern European lore.  Some can turn into mist form.  Some have animalistic features.  They don’t cast reflections.  In terms of their powers, they very much reflect the type of vampire more often associated with 19th century gothic literature than modern portrayals.   
But there is also the psychological aspect of vampirism.  What impact would that actually have on a person’s psyche?  One day you are human, and then next the only way to survive is to drain the blood from people?  Nobody comes out of that mentally unscathed.  And I think this is the part a lot of modern vampire authors gloss over, or outright ignore. 
Survival instincts take over. Predatory instincts emerge.  Empathy for your prey diminishes.  You can’t be friends with your food, after all.  And other vampires aren’t your friends, either.  They are competition for hunting grounds, because a territory can only support so many apex predators. 
So you start to do things to secure your territory.  You accumulate wealth and resources.  You manipulate institutions in order to mask your existence.  Darius, for all of his charm and wit and humor, is a sociopath.  He has to be in order to survive. 

So much has been written about vampires that it's a challenge to make a vampire character who is fresh and original.  How did you make Darius stand out from the literary legions of the undead?
I think what makes Darius stand out is not that he is something new on the vampire scene, but rather a very traditional vampire concept.  On the vampire family tree, he is much closer to Polidori’s Lord Ruthven than Meyers’ Edward.  One reviewer called him “The new Lestat,” but while it’s flattering to be put in the same category as Rice, I don’t think that is accurate.  Lestat at least struggled at times with his morality.  He lost that struggle more often than not, but at least he was somewhat aware that his behavior was inherently wrong.  Darius doesn’t suffer from any moral struggle.  He sees nothing wrong with his behavior. 
In fact, he considers humanity’s empathy to be out of sync with the natural world and actively rants against it.  There is a scene in the book in which Mitch confronts Darius concerning the rivalry between Darius and his sire.  At one point, Mitch tries to make Darius feel some sort of guilt for his crimes by mentioning the death of a woman he was engaged to marry when mortal.  Instead, it reinforces Darius’ position.

“You can’t even compare the two!”  Hawthorne jumped out of his seat and started pacing like a caged beast.  “This…this is the problem with this modern age!  Political correctness run amok!  All humans are not created equal!  In your attempts to value all lives equally you devalue those that actually matter!  You coddle your weak and invalid at the expense of the strong!  You throw resources at deformities that should not even have been born, while allowing the healthy to do without!  No other creature wastes so much to protect the worthless among them!”

Tell me a bit about your hero, Mitch Grogan, and how you created him.
 Mitch suffers from what can be called a case of chronic empathy.  At the beginning of the book, he’s separated from his wife, who is going through her own personal crisis after having a miscarriage and developing breast cancer.  He wants to be there to support her, but she keeps pushing him away and it is eating him up inside.  Though he’s a bit rough around the edges and curses like a sailor, he has a big heart and wants to do the right thing. 
The concept behind Mitch was that he is someone who is Darius’ polar opposite, and yet they are more alike than Mitch would ever want to admit.  Both are competitive, and that competitive nature is what drives a lot of the one-upmanship in the story.    
Both are also pragmatists.  For Darius, that simply means doing what is necessary to protect himself.  For Mitch, that means weighing the lesser of two evils and trying to mitigate the damage being done.  Mitch knows his hands are tied in a lot of ways.  He can’t challenge Darius physically.  He can’t compete against him in terms of resources.  He can’t even employ the full support of the police department without endangering his partner’s family.  And he can’t go public with information about vampires without either being branded insane or causing a panic that could lead to even more deaths.  So he is forced to play this game by vampire rules, and he is willing to do that because it is the only way to protect the most people.
What were your goals with this novel?  What impact do you want to have on your readers?
The first goal was to bring the literary vampire back to its roots and remind people why the motif has remained so alluring for so long.  Secondly, I hope readers can form a connection with the characters and feel a bond with them.  A story like this only works if the readers can care about the characters and what happens to them.  I like to think I’ve given readers characters they can care about.  Even the minor characters have their own distinct personalities and you can relate to them. 

You have a background in designing role-playing games.  How has this affected your writing?
I think what having a background in RPGs does is force you to think through your world building.  Even when you are setting stories in the real world, you are presenting your version of the world.  That means you have to make sure that all of the pieces fit together.  In RPGs, we call it game balance.  Game balance doesn’t mean all powers are created equal.  It means that no one power is so powerful that it fundamentally changes the world.  So if you think of the traditional fantasy world, you have mages that can throw fireballs from a hundred yards away.  That is a hugely powerful ability if left unchecked.  So it gets balanced out by the fact that there are usually some sort of restrictions on how many spells a mage can cast, either because they can only memorize X number of spells per day or because those spells pull from the mage’s own life force.  If you have priests that can cast resurrection on the dead, how does that impact the world?  Without something to restrict the use of the spell, death becomes a nuisance and nothing more.  So you require expensive components for the spell or say it has to be cast in a certain time period. 
So you take those thought processes and you apply them to what you are writing.  In the modern world, if vampires existed, how would they keep their existence secret?  Why would they need to?  What entities or institutions would exist to challenge them?  What powers would they need to survive?   How would those powers give them an advantage, and how does one mitigate those advantages?  What are their weaknesses?  Do those weaknesses make sense within the lore you have established for the story?  If you put everything together right, you have a world full of supernatural creatures that still feels organic and believable. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Zombies, Mummies, Werewolves, and More

A towering shape emerged from the dried corn stalks on the roadside. Chev didn’t take his eyes off the two men; in his peripheral, a half dozen more old men filed out of the fields. Like the first two, they were unclothed and unkempt, filthy creatures with wild eyes and uneven grins.

Chev back-pedaled to the open door of the cab. They lunged towards him, teeth gnashing. He pulled himself inside and slammed the door. The old men chattered and circled the cab, laughing and snorting, plainly amused by his panic.

Today's recommendation is for author Lorne Dixon.  He's been mentioned here before, for Eternal Unrest, his mummy novel.  He's taking a bit of an authorial tour of horror classics, with Snarl, A Werewolf Thriller, and The Lifeless: A Zombie Thriller.  He's even taken on Sherlock Holmes at his creepiest with Hound: The Curse of the Baskervilles

Dixon's a skillful writer with a fresh take on the classics.  His books are fun to read while being genuinely frightening.  His characters are real and vivid and impossible not to care for. Try him out.  He's horrifically good.

Monday, August 15, 2011

God's Holy Socks

I've been scouring the interweb tubes for you, my loyal readers, and frankly wading through some astonishingly bad novels in my search for gems to recommend. Today it's all been made worthwhile.

Mendacities, by George Berger. Catchy title, right?  He could win Worst Title Ever contests with that one.  After that one poorly-chosen word, though, the suck comes screeching to a halt and the coolness begins.  Well, you also have to get past the cover, which screams "Arty-farty pretentious literature."  Bear, however, with me.  The actual novel rocks.

It's a very difficult book to describe.  We'll see if I'm equal to the task.  It's a book that thumbs its nose at the genre system, the kind of thing a traditional publisher would never touch because it has no pigeonhole.  It's cool in so many different ways, you can't classify it. 

The main characters are in High School, but is sure ain't your typical YA novel.  There is a conspiracy theory so preposterous Fox Mulder would't buy it, but it happens to be true.  There is mystery and murder, dark secrets and danger.  There are secret societies controlling the media, the military, the government.  And not just any secret societies.  Cool ones!  The Order of the Silver Badger.  The Order of the Golden Shark.  How awesome is that?

And the whole thing is couched in prose that is both beautiful and endlessly surprising.  The simplest scene may cause you to spray coffee on your Kindle, or just sit back and stare in sheer disbelief at the originality of it all.  Here's an example, as the narrator copes with the aftermath of his teacher's untimely (and highly suspicious) demise: 

Why do we grieve, I wondered, or at least pretend to?

Is it a coping mechanism? Or a cynical social ploy to show others how sensitive, emotional, and caring we are?

When I die, I decided, I’m going to come back as a zombie and beat the heck out of all the complete strangers who make the mistake of pretending they cared.

Yeah, so I guess my grieving lasted all of a minute or two, at most.

Does that make me a bad person?

Here's another, as his mother gives her perspective on a conspiracy theory:

“Maybe they’re not telling us the whole truth,” Nat said.

“Who is they?” I asked.

“Who is them?” my mother suggested.

Anyway, check it out, and let the agreeable boggling of your mind begin.

Mendacities on Smashwords

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Brand Spanking New!

Joe Vasicek made an impressive debut with Genesis Earth.  Since that time he hasn't been resting on his laurels.  No, apparently he's been typing like a mad fool.  Bashing those keys like he's shaking down a bunch of fifth-graders for their lunch money.  But in a good way, you understand.

He's just released Bringing Stella Home, and you could be the first on your block to read it.  This is space opera the way we like it here at Fantastic Adventures.  The body count is astronomical, if you'll pardon the pun.  Those who aren't killed suffer fates worse than death.  It's mayhem among the stars.  Remember, in space, no one can hear you say "Wow, that's cool!"

It's not all action and adventure, of course.  Not if it's going to get a recommendation at an upscale blog like this.  No, there is a serious core to this tale, a teenage boy coming of age, facing his fears, becoming a man, and doing whatever it takes to save his sister.

Meanwhile, the book is crammed full of all the radical stuff I don't get to have in my real life.  Shock troopers!  Concubines!  Spaceships!  Daring rescues!  Narrow escapes!  Some adult content including sexual themes!  Did I mention concubines?

Grab it.  Enjoy it.  Then come back here and leave me a comment thanking me for steering you straight.

Twenty-seven newly arrived ships showed up on the scanners, not fifty thousand kilometres from the night side of the planet.  How many more were waiting in the blind spot opposite their current orbital position, he had no way of knowing--but he wouldn't be surprised if it was twice that number.

"James?  Son?  Can you hear me?"

A cold sweat broke out across the back of James's neck.  The people of Kardunash IV didn't have a chance.

Everyone on that world was going to die.