Too Little Or Too Much

A short while ago, maybe a month or two, I publicly shamed myself on Twitter for not having a large enough output this year. In 2015, I had published a novel and appeared in three anthologies, and released one of those stories as a stand-alone title. Halfway through 2016, I was feeling the pinch of having hardly any releases at all this year. So far, I’ve released only one short story, Let Go, and a short story titled “Black Site” was published in CLONES: The Anthology. Although I was busy writing, not much of it was making its way out into the market and it was making me a feel bit depressed. I felt like I either wasn’t doing enough or wasn’t getting stuff done (partially true, but mildly inaccurate), and the weight of it was like a vise around my neck.

The big pro-tip to being a writer is one simple rule: Finish Your Shit.

I was not finishing my shit, or at least not the one big shit I had in me, but not necessarily for lack of trying. I’ve been working on a novel since March and it’s become my own personal Moby Dick. Not because it’s a wild, untamed beast that I have sworn revenge against, but because it’s been such a long, arduous journey in trying to finish it off. I know the rough shape of it, and when I’m working on it, it feels good and (mostly) right. And it’s not even a lack of focus or desire to continue plugging away at it.

Mostly, it’s because I allow myself to keep getting interrupted with other projects. This is by no means a bad thing, nor is it a complaint. If anything, it is perhaps a very good problem to have. I’ve put this novel on hold several times, and have done so once again, in order to tackle a story and an invitation that is simply too good to pass up. Back near the start of writing said novel, a lonely old man named Everett Hart told me a story and his voice demanded that I write Let Go. So I did. And then I got invited to contribute to CLONES: The Anthology. I had a killer idea for that one, so, again, the novel got put on the back burner. Ultimately, it was certainly worth it. This book became an Amazon Best Seller in their sci-fi anthology category, and, for a very brief time, I was a Top 100 science fiction author over there. Pretty cool!

I’ve gone back and forth with this novel-in-progress a few times now, interrupting the process once more very recently in order to write a novella that captured my fancy. It’s called Broken Shells and it needs lots of editing, but the story itself is largely finished. I began writing this shortly before my mother passed away, and in the weeks following her death it provided a much-needed retreat for me, and even a little bit of therapy. All that remains now are the finishing touches. That, too, is now on hold, thanks to an invitation that was extended my way late last week.

At the moment, I am roughly 3,000 words into REDACTED. I’m not sure what I can or cannot discuss about this work yet, so it’s perhaps best to say nothing. It’s the kind of deal though, that when you’re invited in, you do not turn it down. And since a dude at Amazon called me to discuss this work specifically goes a long way in telling me it could maybe possibly be a big deal. The kind of project that you simply do not say No to and walk away from. If anything, you drop whatever you’re doing and get to work. Of course, it’s entirely possible I’m blowing smoke up my own ass. I get the impression though that this is at least important to Amazon, and it could certainly have the potential for more readers to discover my work, which is a fantastic reward all by itself. So, yeah, I dropped everything and got to work! REDACTED will be novella length, and while it’s in my wheelhouse of both science fiction and horror, it’s of a particular sub-genre I haven’t written in previously. There are a few hurdles to overcome, and plenty of research to do. Thus far, it’s been a lot of fun, though, and I’m excited to see where it goes. I’ll have plenty more to say about this in the coming months, so be sure to stay tuned, or sign-up for my newsletter to get the big scoop straight to your inbox.

My main problem though has been reconciling the disparity in my work versus my output. I’ve been busy, even if I don’t yet have a lot to show for it. I will eventually, and there’s plenty of stuff on the horizon. So, I made a list of stuff in progress to give me a sort of visual reminder and a much-needed kick in the ass that I actually am doing something! Here’s where things stand at the moment for 2016:

  • A short novel is under review with a small press publisher for publication. The sample was apparently good enough that the editor recently asked for the full manuscript. If the story is not a good fit for this publisher, there are other avenues I can explore, so we’ll see what happens there.
  • LET GO – Published
  • Black Site – Published in CLONES: The Anthology, pending solo publication
  • Broken Shells – pending publication
  • Novel – in progress
  • The Marque – pending solo publication (originally published in Crime & Punishment)
  • Preservation – pending solo publication (originally published in The Cyborg Chronicles)
  • REDACTED – in progress, expected publication late 2016/Q1 2017
  • Audiobook edition of Revolver – in progress, release TBA

To top it all off, while doing yard work yesterday inspiration struck. I came up with a cool idea for a post-apocalyptic natural horror short story, which I’ll probably work on once Secret Project is finished and then leap back into the novel.

None of this even takes into account the advance copies of books I need to read and review. Or the fact that all of this must be balanced against working full-time and having a family.

And yet, yeah, somehow, for whatever reason, I honestly felt like I wasn’t doing enough.

Ultimately, I’ve decided I’m OK with where things are at presently. If my output for 2016 is a bit diminished, then I have to be fine with it. I may still be able to get one or two of these projects out by year’s end. If not, then 2017 will be a banner year for me in terms of published stories!

Too Little Or Too Much

Review: Invasive by Chuck Wendig

Review:

invasive.jpg

Between Ezekiel Boone’s The Hatching (my review) and, now, Chuck Wendig’s Invasive, this has been a pretty good summer for bug books! While the former concerned itself with the reemergence of an ancient spider species violently troubling mankind, Wending brings us a brand new strain of genetically modified ultra-violent ants.

Invasive opens with a brief definition of the word ‘formication,’ which is a sensation that feels like insects crawling over or under your skin. This is a good word to know because you’ll be feeling plenty of formication throughout the book, likely by chapter two.

Set in the world of Wendig’s prior novel, Zer0es (which, if you haven’t read, now is a good time to buy. It’s not completely necessary to this title’s narrative, but it is a damn fun read and worth checking out. Minor references are made to Zer0es, but this series seems to be building on a theme of hacking – first cyber hacking in the previous entry, and now bio-hacking with Invasive), Hollis Copper returns and recruits FBI futurist consultant, Hannah Stander, to investigate an unusual case: a cabin housing ten thousand dead bodies. One of them is human; the rest are ant corpses, but are the apparent cause of death for the victim in question.

What follows is a horrific technothriller that feels like the spiritual lovechild of Michael Crichton and The X-Files. While there are streaks of humor, Invasive is a fairly dark read, but it carries all the hallmarks of a big summer blockbuster, right down a gloriously large-scale action set-piece for the book’s second half. Hannah Stander is a terrific female heroine, and shines wonderfully as the book’s strong, central protagonist. I will admit, though, that I was more than a bit captivated by Ez Choi, an entomologist and friend of Stander brought in as a consult. She’s a fun, spunky, punky bug geek and I hope we get to see more of her in future books.

I’ve never been particularly phobic of ants before (I can’t say the same about spiders), and I find them to be rather intriguing little creatures. Wendig has me second-guessing myself just a bit now, though… He does capture their intriguing nature with some nicely done sciencey bits (it seems clear he did plenty of homework, and the book’s layman explanations of the more technical aspects of ant-life and genetic mucking about ring true enough to me), and the more graphic depictions of what these vicious colonies are capable of left with me more than a few uncomfortable sensations. Yes, it’s true – this book made me formicate.

[Note: I received an advance copy of this title for review from the publisher via Edelweiss.]

 

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Review: Invasive by Chuck Wendig

Review: Hell Divers by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Review:

HELL DIVERS

After five Extinction Cycle novels (and a sixth on the way!), Hell Divers, the first installment in a brand-new series from Nicholas Sansbury Smith, is a refreshing change of pace. While it has all the hallmarks of Smith’s usual brand of brimstone and bullets, its premise goes a long way in making this a distinct entry in this author’s oeuvre.

In both the Orbs and Extinction Cycle books, Smith approaches his doomsday scenarios as fresh threats to humanity on the brink of destruction with The End Of The World As We Know It just right around the corner or rapidly in progress. In Hell Divers, the apocalypse has already happened and, two hundred years after Trump’s presidency later, mankind has been reduced to roughly a thousand souls spread out across two airships, the Ares and the Hive. The Earth below them is a radioactive wasteland, the skies treacherous with the constant threat of electrical storms. After Ares is damaged, the Hell Divers (think futuristic paratroopers with wildly short lifespans) aboard the Hive are sent on a rescue mission. Soon enough, they find out the ground is not as lifeless as they thought, as marauding bands of vicious creatures they dub Sirens are out to get them.

One thing Smith does exceptionally well are action scenes, and there’s plenty of those to go around here as Xavier Rodriguez (otherwise known as X) and his team do battle across frozen wastelands, and the shipboard Militia stave off homegrown threats, as well as more elemental troubles. When the Divers do their diving, there’s some legitimate excitement to the sequences and Smith does a terrific job describing this horrific adrenaline rush. Ground combat is equally fierce, although the Sirens could use a little more oomph. As a fan of the Extinction Cycle series, I didn’t find these mutant killers quite as intriguing as the Variants. However, with two more books on the way, Smith certainly has plenty of space left to flesh out the concepts introduced here.

On the character front, X is the strong dashing male hero, and Captain Ash is the strong-willed woman in charge of the Hive – both are great characters, and get their own moments to shine. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more about these characters, as well as their lives aboard ship, and the ten-year-old Tin has all the makings of a heroic prodigy if he survives all the threats life in the skies brings.

There’s a lot about Hell Divers that feels comfortably familiar, but Smith freshens it up with a new coat of paint and shakes up the formula of his previous series enough to avoid feeling derivative of his other apocalyptic military thrillers. I think he’s on to the start of something that could be pretty bold here, and I’m excited to see what he has in store for the Hive, and readers, with future installments. Onward and upward!

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title for review from the publisher via NetGalley.]

 

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Review: Hell Divers by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

June 2016 Read & Reviewed Round-Up

I can’t believe it’s already July! The year is half-over, my son will become a one-year-old in a few more months, and the radio will start playing Christmas song way too fucking early. So, let’s take a quick look back at the month that was, shall we?

In June, I read and reviewed the following:

  1. A Song For No Man’s Land by Andy Remic
  2. Return of Souls by Andy Remic
  3. The X-Files: Trust No One edited by Jonathan Maberry (audiobook)
  4. Lights Out by Nate Southard
  5. Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco (audiobook)
  6. The Last Weekend by Nick Mamatas (audiobook)
  7. Consequences by John Quick
  8. Stolen Away by Kristin Dearborn
  9. The Fisherman by John Langan

Thanks to the magic of the Internets, you can click on those blue links and be magically transported to my reviews! Hurrah!

At the moment, I am currently listening to the audiobook edition of Wolf Hunt by Jeff Strand. Let me tell you, this one is a lot of fun – and funny, too. I’ll be starting The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone shortly, which sounds fantastic (spider horror! Which, I know, is a bit redundant, but still…) and has gotten some great advanced reviews. I’ll have my thoughts posted soon enough, but in the meantime go check out Char’s review at Horror After Dark.

June 2016 Read & Reviewed Round-Up

Review: The X-Files – Trust No One (Audiobook)

Review:

x-files-trust-no-one-blackstone-1000

My original The X-Files – Trust No One audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

I’ve been a fan of The X-Files since it premiered on FOX way back in 1993. I remember, quite fondly, watching the premiere with my mother and then, later, with friends as a trio of us creeped-out teens went for a walk around the neighborhood in the dark following the initial airing (and only airing on FOX) of the episode “Home.” Wandering the quiet, moonlit streets had not felt like the best of ideas so soon after meeting the Peacock family. The X-Files was one of the few shows I found myself religiously tracking on then-young America Online message boards, and then, many years later, I found myself tweeting #XFiles3 along with many other fans, begging 20th Century Fox for a third movie to wrap things up and properly celebrate the show’s twentieth anniversary. A third movie never happened, but the TV show did get a small reboot on-air, with the promise of more to come. I found myself in a rare spot for a man schooled by The X-Files and Agents Mulder and Scully, as we appeared to be recapturing the cultural zeitgeist that gave rise to the series and suddenly had new material featuring the intrepid agents in the form of comic books from IDW, a fresh batch of TV episodes, and, now, this first book in a series of anthologies – I found myself believing and trusting that The X-Files was alive once again.

Trust No One, edited by Jonathan Maberry, presents fifteen short stories from various authors, each opening up a new X-Files case that finds our intrepid FBI’s Most Unwanted chasing after, or being on the run from, paranormal activity and black-suited government agents of ill repute, some of whom leave behind the strong odor of cigarette smoke. Tim Lebbon starts the book off in strong fashion with “Catatonia,” about a group of missing teens who have returned and are catatonic. My favorite, though, was Brian Keene’s “Non Gratum Anus Rodentum,” a Skinner-centric story that involves were-rats and his history in Vietnam. Like most other anthologies, Trust No One is a mixed bag. I didn’t love every story here, but there are a number of truly worthwhile X-Files investigations that deserve exploration. Other standouts includes “Paranormal Quest” by Ray Garton and “The House on Hickory Hill” by Max Allan Collins, a pair of haunted house stories with a welcome twist in each. Kevin J. Anderson, who wrote a number of The X-Files books back in the day, is a welcome and familiar voice to the anthology with his story “Statues.”

Tackling these stories are narrators Bronson Pinchot and Hillary Huber, whose duties are divided between Mulder’s and Scully’s points-of-view. Pinchot carries the bulk of this book’s fifteen-plus hours run-time, but the two narrators occasionally work together on a single story that shifts between Mulder and Scully, and Huber narrates the handful of Scully-centric stories solo. Both Pinchot and Huber deliver a solid enough narration, with Pinchot showing a dynamic range in character voices and regional accents. And while Pinchot handles Mulder’s deadpan dialogue well enough, it does take some time getting used to new, different actors inhabiting the roles that Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny, and supporting cast members like Mitch Pillegi and William B. Davis, have made so iconic and familiar. On the production end of things, I have no complaints. The sound quality is fine, and the audio is crisp and clean, making for an easy listen.

Trust No One may not completely capture the glory days of The X-Files, but it does provide a number of intriguing avenues for investigation. The best stories here were a delightful reminder of why I fell in love with this series and these characters way back when, and perfectly capture the tone of the series, balancing the agents’ quirkiness and skepticism, and humor and horror. Those stories alone make this worth the price of entry.

 

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Review: The X-Files – Trust No One (Audiobook)

Review: A Song For No Man’s Land by Andy Remic

Review:

nomansland

I’ve spent a while trying to gather my thoughts on this book and what to say about, but I can’t help but surmise that it’s a story with more pages than content. Quite a lot of it feels like a song stuck on repeat, but one that occasionally and magically teases you with bits of other important and interesting notes before returning to the same-old, same-old.

Set during World War I, we get plenty of combat scenes as our lead protagonist, Robert Jones, fights in the trenches, alongside his friend and fellow soldier, a big man with a big personality named Bainbridge. They have an easy friendship that becomes strained as the war goes on, each man seeing their share of injuries and…other things. Strange things. Monstrous thing. There’s…something…lurking in the woods and haunting the battlefields, although too often this feels like a minor footnote in Remic’s narrative until the big finale and a resolution that leads neatly into the larger auspices of this series.

While there are plenty of great depictions of life on the front-lines of The Great War, I couldn’t help but feel like there was something missing. The focus on the battles, too, began to feel a bit stale by book’s end, and I can’t hep but wonder if Remic was stalling a bit to fill a word count requirement.

That said, the final chapter provides a nice bit of illumination and meat to the mythological structure underpinning the nature of the war in Remic’s hands, and sets the stage for the next book. A Song For No Man’s Land, in its resolution, feels more like an appetizer for Return of Souls, which I’ll be diving into shortly. I suspect there’s a promising series to be had here, but at the moment I’m enjoying the ideas (dark but intermittent bits of fantasy set against the front-lines of WWI) more than the execution.

 

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Review: A Song For No Man’s Land by Andy Remic

May 2016 Read & Reviewed Roundup

May 2016 saw me cross the 50 Books Consumed mark for the year, so here’s a look back at the month that was. (Small caveat – some of the audiobooks listed here were actually “read” in April, but the reviews were not posted until May. I’m including them here based on their date of publication, and because I’ve already done an April 2016 Reading Roundup. Bloggers prerogative and all that…)

  1. Alien: Out of the Shadows (audiobook) by Tim Lebbon
  2. A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
  3. Mayan Blue by Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason
  4. A Whisper of Southern Lights by Tim Lebbon
  5. Strike (HIT #2) by Delilah S. Dawson (audiobook)
  6. The Invasion by Brett McBean
  7. There Will Always Be A Max (A Genrenauts Story) by Michael R. Underwood
  8. The Cupid Reconciliation (Genrenauts, Episode 3) by Michael R. Underwood
  9. Motorman by Robert E. Dunn
  10. Odd Adventures With Your Other Father by Norman Prentiss
  11. The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent by Larry Correia (audiobook)
  12. Company Town by Madeline Ashby
  13. Beyond The Ice Limit by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
May 2016 Read & Reviewed Roundup