Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Review of Roses Are Red by Carrie Green

I’m a big fan of short fiction.  (I think I’ve said that before.  Actually, I think I’ve said that about a million times before.)  There’s a balancing act that an author has to perform.  If someone tries to put too much in the story, they end up with an unsatisfying attempt at fiction that just won’t work in the short format.  On the other hand, few writers can pack power into writing that’s overly sparse—maybe only Hemmingway really mastered it completely.  So, the balancing act is finding a way to get the reader to receive the impact of a robust and well-developed story without writing a novel to do it.  A good short story leaves a great deal unsaid, but next to nothing unspoken.

Carrie Green’s short story collection, Roses Are Red, does that well, very well, and remarkably well.  I say this because I quite enjoyed the book.  I think the last story is by far the best, and the science fiction story isn't near to the quality of the other two.  Nonetheless, all three stories are good. 

In the first story, A Long Distance Relationship, she explores the impact of guilt on a murderer.  Here is evil completely unromanticized (I don’t care what spellcheck says, I’m counting “unromanticized” as a word.)  The man imagines his victim communicating on the phone with him, and Green writes it well.

My favorite of the stories is Cash Only.  More of a psychological drama than a horror, it’s remarkable in a number of ways.  The bounty hunter character she’s created is callous and unrelenting.  Still, he’s in the right, and you never quite disagree with him.  Then, his thoughts drift to more human (read that humane) ideals, and you think you’ve read him wrong.  That’s okay, because you like his change of heart.  Then, Green hits you right between the eyes.

Do yourself a favor and pick this collection up.  It’s just a buck on Amazon, and it’s worth the spend.  

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Review of Bad Billy by Jimmy Pudge

Jimmy Pudge’s latest is exactly what I’ve come to expect from him—well-written horror masked by an unapologetic approach that’s (can I say it?) vulgar and violent.  Sometimes, reading his work is like watching a fender bender that turns into a brawl that turns into a mass murder.  You think you’ve overcome the impact and he hits you over the head with a baseball bat one more time.  In the first few pages you’ve got the tone of the book smashed right into your face and there’s no pretending you’re not planning to turn (well, click) to the next chapter.

I enjoyed the book a whole heck of a lot.  Jimmy has a talent for taking an event or a scene and distilling it to the fewest words (and usually, they’re explicit words) needed to describe it.  I found myself laughing aloud and then feeling guilty as hell about it, kind of the way you watch a slasher flick, cheer when one of the good guys is killed, and look around in shame until you realize everyone else there is cheering for the maniac, too.  Pudge has a talent for stripping away every trapping of pretentiousness and getting you to read and enjoy.

Okay…let me give you a little taste, here…cigarettes, J & B, gunfire, flames, throat torn open by teeth, baby born in a toilet stall, eating a live cat, shotgun blast to the face, arm chewed off…well, you get the picture.  Don’t you dare buy this book and complain.  If you could possibly be offended, you will be.  But…if you want a taste of an author rapidly becoming one of my favorite writers of visceral comedy/horror, you need to pick up Bad Billy. 

It's very inexpensive on Kindle, and you'll pay more for the half pint of J & B you'll want to drink while you're reading it, so get to it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Review of Pseudonym by Neal Penn


More accurately, my evil twin Jerry Wright helped Neal with some editorial advice with Pseudonym, the new suspense/thriller/detective book.  He tells me it was easy as pie because the book was well crafted and plotted from the outset.  (Well, Jerry said "easy as vodka", but that's pretty much the same for him.)

I like when main characters are broken.  You know, when their lives are so screwed up that anything that happens to them in the book isn't possibly going to do them more harm than the harm they've already done to themselves.  Rodney Crane, the alcoholic disbarred ex-lawyer detective protagonist in Pseudonym is as broken as characters come.  Three small chapters in (the chapters are very short and action driven) he's faced bullets, glass, old ladies, and a scary as hell assassin, and his big regret is that his vodka and his scotch are still away at his house.

The mystery is unique, and that says a lot for it.  A rich man disappears at age 18 and apparently shows up again forty years later as the author of a series of Nick Carter/Executioner type ebooks.  Crane is hired by his spinster sisters to find him.  Along the way, he uncovers a conspiracy, faces a bunch of killers, and--just to make it interesting--has his sweet and HURT BY HIS BEHAVIOR IN THE PAST girlfriend along for the ride.

I enjoyed this book.  It has a ton of over-the-top action, a whole lot of fun dialogue, and just about everyone is on an alcoholic binge.  Who doesn't like bullets when they come along with vodka, bourbon, and scotch?  There are these two bozo hit men chasing Crane, and the interactions between them are just hilarious.  Read this part, but watch out, there's some profanity:

“How could you—hey, hand me my fries—could you miss when we were that close?”  The man behind the wheel merged the SUV onto the 50 and shook his head.  “The boss is gonna be pissed off at you.”
                “What do mean pissed off at me?  You were there.  Why didn’t you do something?”  The second man was dressed in black jeans, black shoes, a black turtleneck, and wore a black watch cap.  He reached into the paper Hardees bag and pulled out the fries.  He stole a few before he handed them to the driver.
                “Hey, eat your own g***m fries.”  The driver wore a charcoal suit with a muted grey tie.  He shook his head.  “First, you dress like some kind of idiot longshoreman with constipation, and then you—”
                “What does that even mean?  I’m dressed so nobody will recognize me if they see me.”
                “There’s not a person on earth who won’t recognize you in that get up.”  The driver shook his head.  “The boss is gonna be so pissed.  One squirrely-ass lawyer and you couldn’t hit him.”
                “My scope was out of alignment.  It wasn’t my—”
                “Who uses a scope from ten feet away?  Anyway, we’ll head back to the hotel and figure out what to do from there.”  The man looked at his partner for a moment.  “Hey, Susan still making those lemon bars?”
                “Yeah, every Saturday morning she makes a batch.  I have to take them out sometimes when she leaves for her shift.  You want me to have her make some for you?”  The passenger reached to the back and lifted the gun from the back seat, “Desert Eagle Mark IV, .357—you know I almost got the fifty.”
                “What do you mean?”
                “The .50 caliber.  They got a .44, the .357, and the .50.  I got the .357 because I figured there wouldn’t be as many looks when I bought the ammo.”  He reached down and unscrewed the scope from the gun’s barrel.  “Oh, Jesus.”
                “I had the scope on backwards.  That’s why I missed that guy.”  He reached in the back seat again and pulled out the combination lock carrying case in which he stored the gun, worked the numbers, and put the gun in the foam nook designed for it.  He put the scope in its nook as well and closed the case.  “You know that the chamber of the Desert Eagle stays open after you fire the last bullet?”
                “The slide.  It stays open.  That’s so you can throw a new magazine in and when you close the chamber it’s already good to go.”  He tossed the box in the back seat and reached back to the Hardees bag where he found a paper wrapped cheeseburger.  “It’s important in a battle to save every second you can.”
                “Hey, gimme one of those, too.”  His partner handed him the one in his hand and reached back into the bag.  “All automatics keep the slide open when they fire the last bullet.”
                “No they don’t.”
                “Yeah they do.  Who the hell ever gave you a gun in the first place?”
                “My dad gave me my first—”
                “Oh, f**k.  It was a categorical question?”
                “A what?”
                The driver shook his head.  “Categorical.  It means it was said for effect.  It wasn’t meant to be answered.”
                “I think that’s rhetorical.”  A neon sign caught his eye.  “Hey, let’s pick up some booze; make it easier to call the boss.”
                “Yeah alright,” he pulled the SUV toward the exit ramp.  “The Boss is gonna be so pissed.”

Almost every interaction between those two is like that, though it gets even funnier later.  The book is put together well with characters you care about, even the bad guys.  Do yourself a favor, the book is only $2.99, so pick up Pseudonym (Rodney Crane Thrillers) on Amazon

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Boogedyman by Ap Miller

For The First Ever Time, Out of Respect to the Young Adults Who Might Read This Review...NO SPOILERS HERE.

                                                          “What if the Boogeyman was real?”
Plagued by horrific boogeyman nightmares since childhood, Murray Thompson is
deathly afraid of the things that he thinks “go bump in the night”. The one thing that keeps him
grounded is his psychiatrist of many years, Dr. Rosen. With regular visits since he was 11 years
old, Murray feels progress should have been made already, but with his dreams becoming more
intense and “real”, he thinks something needs to be done. Going to see his family, Murray
believes that this is the break he needs to keep sane. Feeling at home, and safe around his
family, it works for a time. But when the nightmares start up again, he once more relies on Dr.
Rosen for help. Once back, Dr. Rosen takes Murray on a journey to root out his longtime phobia
and find out if there is cause for his fear or all in his mind.

I have seven kids.  That's right, count'em--one, two, three, four, five, six, seven.  Do you know what that means?  It means I've read just about every book written for people who haven't reached the age of majority.  There's a weird dynamic.  We start out reading books to them, like Andrew Lang's Fairy books and The Little Prince and Water Babies.  Those are pretty fun.  Then, they learn to read, so we're bored as heck watching and listening to them haltingly fight their ways through basic sentences.  When they can read, most of what's available is complete junk.  It isn't until Junior High or so that the kids reach an age where anyone is writing something they might actually enjoy.

And let's face it...ninety-nine percent of what's written for young adults is just crap.  There, I said it.  I'm serious, though.  Most YA fiction isn't about the kids.  It's written to a conglomerate vision of what we think the kids are.  That's why every kid has the exact same challenges, hopes, and fears.  That's why every kid falls in love the exact same way.  That's why there's always one "goody two-shoes" character and one "bad" character.  Really, the genre is so darn formulaic that you almost want to keep your kids illiterate until they can appreciate Hemingway  Steinbeck, and Poe.

I'm happy to report that Ap Miller's book, The Boogedyman, doesn't fall into the trap.  I liked it enough that it ended up a present for my twelve-year old to read.  The book doesn't treat kids like feeble-minded idiots ready for emotional and intellectual manipulation.  I really like that.  It not only excites, but it provokes thought.  Maybe I'm an old fashioned kind of parent, but I find it important that a book make my daughter think.

The characterization is excellent.  I quite like the interactions between Murray and Doctor Rosen.  I also like the psychological horror element of the book.  It's a far cry from most YA horror which, if anything, pays only lip service to the psyche side of horror.  I think it's remarkable that a young adult book focuses so much on older characters as well.  You never see that.

The pacing is great.  It starts slowly and builds with each chapter.  The beginning could have been a little quicker, but there's no harm done.  The twists are unexpected but they don't cheat the reader, and I was left wanting more, so I better see some more in the series, and I know my daughter will go on an Ap Miller hunt if she doesn't.

Pick the book up.  It's out in about five days, and it's a good one.

Monday, October 10, 2011

An Interview with Ap Miller

I was very fortunate to get a chance to talk to Patti, half of the talented husband and wife team who write under the name AP Miller.  They’ve got so many books upcoming that getting any time from them was a real break.  I think you’ll like them as much as I did.

Okay, first things first…You’re a husband and wife team.  How in the heck do you do it?  (I mean without killing each other.)

We get along well, probably better then most couples do in fact. We have a lot in common. We are also very active and disciplined in our career and can easily feed off of each other.

You have multiple genres and audiences.  Do you find yourself slipping into YA writing for your more mature projects, or the reverse?

Nope. Surprisingly I can write in many genres at once now without skipping a beat. Andrew is the science fiction/fantasy king.

Why do kids love horror?

Children love being scared, it’s a common fact. The more they don’t see coming, the better.

Do you write full time or part time, and how do you manage it?

We don’t have a set schedule. We write when we decide the bug is biting and how active the muse is.

Tell us about your latest book.

We actually have eleven new books coming out in Adult, YA and children’s picture books so right now Mum’s the word.

How did you come up with titles?

We base our titles on the content of the story. Andrew chooses his titles after he has written, I choose mine before the book has begun.

You’ve got half a million projects in the works.  First off, tell us how crazy it’s making you two.

You’d think it would? I’m a dinosaur. Been published since 1989, have a thirty-four year background in fiction, publishing, newspaper and magazine writing. I’m used to it. Andrew has been at it now for twenty years.

Now, focus on one of the upcoming projects and give us a taste.

We don’t kiss and tell…our projects are kept secret right up until a week before release. Sorry!  [I did get a taste of their newest, The Boogedyman, but it took a lot of arm twisting!]

What inspired you to be writers?  Were you both writers before you wrote together?

Yes we were. We both knew since we were young we would be writers.

Who is your favorite character in your books? Why?

Andrew’s would have to be Lisa Huntress--it's from our scifi series Lone Huntress. I really don’t have a favorite.

Tell us about the hardest challenge you had to overcome in writing?


What advice would you give to a writer just starting out?

Practice and write what you know. Also to do your homework on the craft before you think about writing any book. It takes years to become a prolific writer but in order to do that you have to study the craft.

What advice would you give to writers working together as a team?

To write to the best of your ability and try to get along.

Who is your favorite author and why? What books have most influenced your life?

For Andrew it’s been Robert Heinlein, for me it’s always been Dianna Gabaldon for many reasons.

I guess it hasn’t happened in a while, but how did you deal with rejection letters?

We took them with a grain of salt and chalked them up as a good tool. I never accept them on a personal level. If the book isn’t right for one publisher it will work for another…you just move on.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?

A good working computer, and reference books on how to write.

What's the weirdest thing you've ever done in the name of research?

Our research is done online. We don’t do anything off the wall.