Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Pack of Wolves Book Review

Title: A Pack of Wolves
Author: Eric S. Brown
Publisher: Gran Mal Press
Pages: 132
ISBN: 9781937727062

A Pack of Wolves is the first book in a new series by horror author Eric S. Brown. In a handful of years Eric S. Brown has gone from a nobody to a somebody, especially when it comes to Bigfoot or weird westerns that have a horror edge. With novella length titles like Bigfoot War, Bigfoot War II: Dead in the Woods, The Weaponer, Last Stand in a Dead Land, and How the West Went to Hell, Brown has managed to carve out not only his name, but a large section of territory in the horror genre.

A few days before A Pack of Wolves released, Brown posted on Facebook that he would be handing out a few electronic copies for review. Since an Eric S. Brown title was virgin territory for my hungry eyes, and because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, I volunteered to review it.

A Pack of Wolves tells the story of "The Family." To say that the phrase: "A family that kills together, stays together," would be adequate in this family's case would be a lie. After one of the brothers decides to go rogue, it's up to the remaining family members to band together to stop him from bringing about the end of the world, exposing the family's secret, and acknowledging the existence of werewolves.

If you're looking for a story that leaves cliches at the door, you might want to look elsewhere. Before the story can even properly start, Brown manages to fill "The Family" full of cliches. There's Graham, the older, wiser brother who takes charge and reigns in his younger siblings to help stop their bloody thirsty brother. Then, there's Shannon, the outcast of the group, who has fallen in love with a human; an undesirable who he's managed to start a life with. And don't forget the added muscle, because there's nothing better than knowing a hulking behemoth of a man is watching your back. In case that's too much testosterone for you, let's not forget Sarah, the busty, drop-dead gorgeous redhead who is the eye candy for every male within a mile radius.

The story begins with the execution of the parents of "The Family" by a fourteen man posse with a man in white spearheading the group. From there the story begins. "The Family" assembles under the supervision of Graham, and the pack sets out to kill their kin or die trying.

At 132 pages, A Pack of Wolves is a quick read. Yes it's short, but it's worth it if you're looking for a quick, mindless read that you can get through in a matter of an hour or two.  With hardly any connective tissue, A Pack of Wolves reads as though Brown decided to only write the pivotal scenes, leaving out room for character development or for that matter, a better story. That's why I'm giving A Pack of Wolves 4 out of 10 TARDISes.


Friday, January 20, 2012

A Look Ahead: Most Anticipated Releases of 2012

Since I've taken a look back on last year, I figured I'd give you all a glimpse forward of the titles that I'm most looking forward to cracking open in 2012. Some of these have book covers that have already been released, and other don't. For those books that don't have a cover yet, I'll post them when they're released. Also, not all of the books in this list have an available synopsis yet, but when they become available, I'll link them.

So, in no particular order, here's a list of books that I'm looking forward to reading in 2012:

First up, is Gaie Sebold's debut fantasy novel, Babylon Steel, which, although it came out in the very tail-end of 2011, I'm still counting as a 2012 release. From the moment I saw it on Amazon, I knew I was going to pick up a copy and review it. Luckily enough, the kind folks over at Solaris sent me a review copy, along with Christopher Fowler's new horror novel, Hell Train, which I'll also be reviewing soon.

One of my favorite characters in recent years has been James Enge's crooked maker, Morlock Ambrosius. Not only is James a great guy, but he's also one hell of a writer too. One of the first authors that was interview for the Sci-Fi Guys podcast, I've kept a very close eye of Enge since that interview, and I'm super excited for the release of his new Morlock novel, A Guile of Dragons, which is slated for an August release. Here's a synopsis of the book from amazon:

Before history began, the dwarves of Thrymhaiam fought against the dragons as the Longest War raged in the deep roads beneath the Northhold. Now the dragons have returned, allied with the dead kings of Cor and backed by the masked gods of Fate and Chaos.

The dwarves are cut off from the Graith of Guardians in the south. Their defenders are taken prisoner or corrupted by dragonspells. The weight of guarding the Northhold now rests on the crooked shoulders of a traitor's son, Morlock syr Theorn (also called Ambrosius).
But his wounded mind has learned a dark secret in the hidden ways under the mountains. Regin and Fafnir were brothers, and the Longest War can never be over. . .
Since the release of The Desert of Souls, I've had my eye on author Howard Andrew Jones. An editor for Black Gate Magazine, -- the same magazine in which Enge's Morlock first appeared, and Enge found his start -- The Desert of Souls is currently on my TBR pile, after accidentally stumbling upon it at my library. I've read the first chapter, and I'm seriously looking forward to not only reviewing the first book in the series, but also getting my hands on it's sequel, Bones of the Old Ones, which has one of the most badass covers I've seen in a while.

And while I'm on sequels, I'll throw a couple of more at you. First up, is the second book in Justin Gustainis's Occult Crimes  series, which started with Hard Spell, and continues with Evil Dark, which is slated for a May release. Hard Spell made my Top 11 List of 2011, coming in at number three. So, to say that I'm seriously looking forward to reviewing Evil Dark goes without saying. If it wasn't for being a sequel to a book I've already read, I probably would have picked this book up based solely on it's cover.

One of the authors that I've come to enjoy within the past few years is Karen Miller, whose novel A Blight of Mages also made my Top 11 of 2011 list. Since picking up and reviewing the first novel in her Rogue Agent series, The Accidental Sorcerer, I've been following her blog. After many troubles with her health, and fighting to finish the manuscript for the newest Rogue Agent novel, she's begun researching and outlining for a new series which she's dubbed The Tarnished Crown Quartet. Although I'm looking forward to reviewing Wizard Undercover, I can't help but daydream about her newest series. The first book of which I doubt we'll see in 2012. But that's okay, I've still got the rest of her Mages series to work my way through, starting with The Innocent Mage, and also books two and three in the Rogue Agent series to read before the fourth books release in late April.

Continuing on with sequels: although it's only recently been announced, Mike Resnick's third and fourth installments in his Weird Western Tales series, The Doctor and the Rough Riders and The Doctor and the Dinasours are on my list. The first because it has a 2012 release date, and the latter, because the series is just so damn cool. Steampunk set in the American West, with famous gunfighters... could it get any better than that?

I recently awarded Seventh Star Press one of the four publishers of the year, as well as small presses to keep an eye on in 2012. So, it's no surprise that three of their titles have made my list for novels I'm most looking forward to. This spring sees the release of not one, but two of those titles, including the first in a new urban fantasy series by Michael West with Posiedon's Children, and the newest sequel/prequel in Steven Shrewsbury's Gorias La Gaul series, Overkill. And the third title, which is another Michael West novel, Spook House, the third book in his New Harmony series.

In addition to Seventh Star Press in the Publishers of 2011 category, is Deadite Press. An imprint of Eraserhead Press, Deadite focuses on authors with a cult following, which makes perfect since as to why they're re-releasing a slew of old and new titles from such authors as Bryan Smith, Wrath James White, Edward Lee, Nate Southard and Brian Keene. In 2011 two of their releases popped up in my best of list: Brian Keene's Jack Magic Beans, and Nate Southard's Just Like Hell. With the release of so many back titles from such great authors, it's not a surprise to me, that several Brian Keene titles have made it into this post. An Occurrence in Crazy Bear Valley, The Cage, and Earthworm Gods: Selected Scenes from the End of the World. For anyone who likes Keene, you should check out Deadite Press.

The third and final small press that I'm going to be keeping my eye on this year is Apex Books. With a plethora of awesome staple of authors, 2012 will see the release of several titles from fairly known names in the writing industry, such as Tom Picirilli, Brian Keene, Lavie Tidhar, Gary A. Braunbeck, Maurice Broaddus, and Jerry Gordon. All of these names have scheduled releases for 2012: Brian Keene with his novel The Lost Level, Gary A. Braunbeck with A Cracked and Broken Path, Tom Picirilli with What Makes You Die, and Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon with their new anthology Dark Faith II.

Since it's establishment only a few years ago, Angry Robot has taken the science fiction and fantasy genres by storm with their unique flavor of publishing. The final publisher on my 2011 list, they have some exciting releases scheduled for this year, including Dead Harvest by Chris Holm, and The Rat Corpse King by up-and-comer Lee Battersby.

I'm looking forward to checking out Nathan Long's Jane Carver of Waar, which (to the best of my knowledge) is his first published novel outside of the Warhammer realm. The cover looks badass, and the synopsis is even better:

Jane Carver is nobody's idea of a space princess. A hard ridin', hard lovin', biker chick and ex-Airborne Ranger, Jane is surprised as anyone else when, on the run from the law, she ducks into the wrong cave at the wrong time-and wakes up butt-naked on an exotic alien planet light-years away from everything she''s ever known. Waar is a savage world of four-armed tiger-men, sky-pirates, slaves, gladiators, and purple-skinned warriors in thrall to a bloodthirsty code of honor and chivalry. Caught up in a disgraced nobleman''s quest to win back the hand of a sexy alien princess, Jane encounters bizarre wonders and dangers unlike anything she ever ran into back home. Then again, Waar has never seen anyone like Jane before... Both a loving tribute and scathing parody of the swashbuckling space fantasies of yore, Jane Carver of Waar introduces an unforgettable new science fiction heroine.
Within recent months my taste has started to become darker and edgier. It was soon after I discovered this genre called Noir, that I dug in and started reading the essentials: Raymond Chandler and the likes. I'd just finished loading up on the classics, when I attended Context last year. While going through a bunch of out of print books from a dealer, I managed to meet author John Hornor Jacobs, who at the time I had never heard, let alone met. So, after a brief conversation on books, we parted ways. When I got home at the end of the weekend, I looked up Jacobs debut novel Southern Gods, and quickly became a fan of his blog. Although I haven't started Southern Gods as of yet, it's on my TPR pile, and my sights are set on his sophomore novel, This Dark Earth, which hits shelves in July. Here's a synopsis I managed to find on bookdepository.com:
In a bleak, zombie-ridden future, a small settlement fights for survival and looks to a teenager to lead them...The land is contaminated, electronics are defunct, the ravenous undead remain, and life has fallen into a nasty and brutish state of nature. Welcome to Bridge City, in what was once Arkansas: part medieval fortress, part Western outpost, and the precarious last stand for civilization. A ten-year-old prodigy when the world ended, Gus is now a battle-hardened young man. He designed Bridge City to protect the living few from the shamblers eternally at the gates. Now he's being groomed by his physician mother, Lucy, and the gentle giant Knock-Out to become the next leader of men. But an army of slavers is on its way, and the war they wage for the city's resources could mean the end of mankind as we know it. Can Gus be humanity's savior? And if he is, will it mean becoming a dictator, a martyr, or maybe something far worse than even the zombies?
Second to last on my list of books to check out in 2012, is a novel that Jacobs recommended not so long ago on his blog. City of Lost Souls is the debut novel of author Stephen Blackmoore. A urban fantasy tinged Noir, I can't help but salivate to the cover and the synopsis (taken from the author's site):

Joe Sunday’s dead. He just hasn’t stopped moving yet.
Sunday’s a thug, an enforcer, a leg-breaker for hire. When his boss sends him to kill a mysterious new business partner, his target strikes back in ways Sunday could never have imagined. Murdered, brought back to a twisted half-life, Sunday finds himself stuck in the middle of a race to find an ancient stone with the power to grant immortality. With it, he might live forever. Without it, he’s just another rotting extra in a George Romero flick.
Everyone’s got a stake, from a psycho Nazi wizard and a razor-toothed midget, to a nympho-demon bartender, a too-powerful witch who just wants to help her homeless vampires, and the one woman who might have all the answers — if only Sunday can figure out what her angle is.

Before the week is out he’s going to find out just what lengths people will go to for immortality. And just how long somebody can hold a grudge.
And finally, last but certainly not least, is Saladin Ahmed's debut novel Throne of the Crescent Moon, which extremely promising! Check it out:

The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, land of djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, Khalifs and killers, is at the boiling point of a power struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince.  In the midst of this brewing rebellion a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. It is up to a handful of heroes to learn the truth behind these killings:

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, "The last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat," just wants a quiet cup of tea.  Three score and more years old, he has grown weary of hunting monsters and saving lives, and is more than ready to retire from his dangerous and demanding vocation. But when an old flame's family is murdered, Adoulla is drawn back to the hunter's path.

Raseed bas Raseed, Adoulla's young assistant, a hidebound holy warrior whose prowess is matched only by his piety, is eager to deliver God's justice. But even as Raseed's sword is tested by ghuls and manjackals, his soul is tested when he and Adoulla cross paths with the tribeswoman Zamia.

Zamia Badawi, Protector of the Band, has been gifted with the near-mythical power of the Lion-Shape, but shunned by her people for daring to take up a man's title. She lives only to avenge her father's death. Until she learns that Adoulla and his allies also hunt her father's killer. Until she meets Raseed.

When they learn that the murders and the Falcon Prince's brewing revolution are connected, the companions must race against time--and struggle against their own misgivings--to save the life of a vicious despot.  In so doing they discover a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn Dhamsawaat, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin.
And of course, there are more titles that I'm looking forward to cracking open in 2012, but these are the core of my interest... for now!

So, what are some titles that you're looking forward to digging into in 2012? Leave a comment, and let me know!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Best of 2011: Publishers

While writing up my Top 11 of 2011 post, my brain kept coming back to dozens of titles, all of which were excellent, and all of which I read in 2011. Needless to say, it wasn't easy trying to come up with a list of the best reads of last year. Each title I mulled over, until, finally, I had a preliminary list. As I looked over each title that had made the list, one thought kept sticking out to me: the publishers.

Just as important as the author, the publishers are the ones who make it possible in most cases for the authors on my 2011 list to be read and reviewed by people like me. After some thought, I finally decided to do two Best of 2011 posts, the first being books, and the second post -- this post -- focusing on the publishers.

So, who were my top publishers of 2011? Well, when I broke it down, there were only a handful that immediately came to mind. In no particular order, they are:

Seventh Star Press - Although Seventh Star has been around for a few years, it hasn't been until recently that they've made a splash in the water. 2011 saw their author roster increase significantly with authors such as: D.A. Adams, David H. Blalock, and Michael West.

2011 also saw some major releases from Seventh Star as well. The Fall of Durkhon, Redheart, Cinema of Shadows, Angelkiller, The Seventh Throne, are all titles that hit the shelves this year. And if that's what they've managed to produce in 2011, I can't wait to see what they do in 2012! Fantasy, Horror, and Urban Fantasy fans should take note. If you want good, quality reads that don't take a bite out of your check should head over to Amazon and check out there $2.99 e-books.

And for those of you that might be unsure, or don't want to spend $2.99 on an e-book that they might not enjoy, should check out their 8 e-book short stories for only $.99, from authors Stephen Zimmer, Michael West, and Steven Shrewsbury.

I have no doubts that 2012 will be a very good year for Seventh Star!

Deadite Press - A relatively new small press -- and an imprint of Eraserhead Press -- Deadite specializes in cult horror authors that have managed to make a name for themselves, and along the way amassed overflowing flocks of followers. So it's no surprise that they produce great and sometimes hard to find titles from authors including: Brian Keene, Bryan Smith, Edward Lee, Robert Deveraux, Wrath James White, G.F. Gonzalez, and Nate Southard. Two of the eleven titles that made it onto my Top 11 of 2011 list were Deadite titles, so they must be doing something right!

Angry Robot - And finally, the sleeping giant of the list, and of 2011: Angry Robot. Founded in 2008 by Marc Gascoigne, Angry Robot has been going strong since, and gaining momentum at every turn. In less than three years, Angry Robot has managed to enlist some of the biggest names in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror (Dan Abnett, K.W. Jeter, Tim Waggoner) and along the way found new names of future greats (Maurice Broaddus, Lauren Beukes, Lavie Tidhar, Adam Christopher, Matt Forbeck).

Angry Robot managed to release a massive list of titles in 2011, and have already begun to announce some great titles for 2012, including Giant Thief, Dead Harvest, Carpathia, Evil Dark, The Corpse-Rat King, The Alchemist of Souls, The Hammer and the Blade (all titles I'm looking forward to with much excitement).

If 2011 is any indication, I have a feeling that 2012 is going to be one hell of a year for books!


Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Best of 2011: Books

Now that the New Year is over with and things have had time to settle down, I figured I would go ahead and put up my Top 11 list of 2011. These are the the cream of the crop; the 11 titles that I enjoyed reading the most in 2011. This year I didn't get around to writing a review of everything that a read, let alone enjoyed, so this list might look a little different than the list of books that I reviewed in 2011.

Most all of the titles in this list, in one way or another, were published in 2011. For instance, Nate Southard's Just Like Hell was originally published a few years back as a limited edition, but this year Deadite Press re-released it in an affordable paperback, therefore counting as a 2011 release.

So, without further ado, here's my top 11 List of 2011:

1.) Every Shallow Cut - One of the most powerful pieces of work I've read in a long time. It's gritty, real, and has a razors edge to it that will cut you if you aren't careful. This is Picirilli at his best. It'll be interesting to see if Picirilli can top Every Shallow Cut with his forthcoming 2012 titles: What Makes You Die, which Pic has already stated is in the same vein as ESC. If you like Noir, and stories that don't have a happy ending, then this is your cup of tea. And it's a rather short read, which makes it even easier to digest. I knocked it out in only a few hours.

2.) The Wide Game - The debut novel of horror author Michael West. A writer, I think many don't have an eye on yet, but should, and soon will. A man who loves his cinematic horror, the knowledge and appreciation for the genre shine through in The Wide Game. Add to that beautifully written prose that will at once steal your breath, send a chill down your spine, and make you lose all track of time, The Wide Game takes the reader back to a time when horror was thriving. Back to a time where storytellers and Hollywood didn't rely on gratuitous violence and stupid gore to shock the connoisseur. Back to a time when this novel would have easily made the New York Times, and quite possibly rivaled the newest Stephen King title.

3.) Hard Spell - The first book in the Occult Crime Unit series by Justin Guistainis, Hard Spell is a hard hitting crime story wrapped in a balls-to-the-walls premise, masquerading as an urban fantasy detective story. If you like cops, vampires, and an author with a great sense of humor, then Hard Spell is definitely for you. As soon as I finished it, I was hooked and ready for more. I'm glad that the release of the next book in the series, Evil Dark, is only a few months away (April), otherwise I'd be having issues.

4.) Just Like Hell - One of the best novellas I read in 2011. So much of the literature that's crammed into the horror genre is nothing more than gore porn; written for the soul purpose of invoking shock and awe in the reader. It was refreshing to pick up a title that, although the cover would have you think otherwise, was nothing like what I thought it would be. "Don't judge a book by its cover," is I admit, exactly what I did. Luckily enough for me, I was proven wrong. There's nothing in life that's more shocking than the truth. Something that's surreal; vivid to the point of believing you saw it headlining the news. Just Like Hell was the read for me. More so than anything else I read in 2011.

5.) A Blight of Mages - One of the few books I read in 2011 that hit me emotionally, and made me think from start to finish. It wasn't until I read  A Blight of Mages, that the phrase: "respect isn't owed, it's earned," made sense to me, and since then it's taken on a personal meaning for me. Not many books in the past have made me think, or cared for the characters for that matter, as much as this novel did. The prequel to Miller's fantasy series Kingmaker, Kingbreaker, A Blight of Mages has spurred my interest even further for the 'first' book of the aforementioned duology. Which is on my TBR list for 2012. If Miller can do in the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker duology what she did in this novel, she'll not only have made an urban fantasy fan out of me, but a fantasy fan as well. Anything and everything I can get my hands on by her, I will.

6.) The Doctor and the Kid - The Doctor and the Kid picks up soon after the events in The Buntline Special. It's been a year since Doc Holliday fought alongside the Earp's at the O.K. Corral, and months since he tore across the Arizona Territory on Wyatt Earp's Vendetta Ride seeking vengeance for the assassination Morgan Earp.  From the very first word I knew that this book would be better than its predecessor, and fortunately enough, I was right. Mike Resnick manages to reinvent the gaps in Doc Holliday's life just enough to add in fantastic elements and re-write it enough to tell one hell of a good yarn. Where The Buntline Special focused on the Earp's, Masterson and the shootout at the O.K. Corral, The Doctor and the Kid focuses in on Doc Holliday, and his dealings with Billy the Kid. Throw in some shamanistic magic, steampunk gadgetry and a handful of awesome historical figures, and you've got my number six pick for Top 11 Books of 2011.

7.) Jack's Magic Beans - Alongside Just Like Hell by Nate Southard, is Brian Keene's novella, Jack's Magic Beans. After nearly five years of sitting unpublished (and me waiting), this delectable novella finally saw publication in 2011. When I heard that this was the case I immediately jumped on the chance to review it. Also published through Deadite Press, Jack's Magic Beans isn't just a novella; it's paired with a handful of short stories written by Brian Keene that although they don't really add anything to the main title, are nevertheless great nuggets for anyone wanting more Keene.

8.) The Alloy of Law - Brandon Sanderson's triumphant return to the world he created in the Mistborn Trilogy. Set three hundred years in the future, everything that happened to the heroes in The Hero of Ages is now a form of religion. Wax, one of the few Allomantics who's a Twin Born returns home after twenty years in the Roughs. Forced to set his ways behind him and his guns aside, he's forced take on the family business much to the chagrin of himself and others. When the women he plans on marrying goes missing, Wax finds himself thrown into a web of mysteries that will change the city itself. Every bit of The Alloy of Law was fun, and I look forward to seeing what Sanderson writes next.

9.) Cinema of Shadows - 2011 saw not one, but two releases for horror author Michael West. Hot off the heels of his debut novel, The Wide Game, and a contract with Seventh Star for eight novels, Michael West returned in 2011 with his first release from Seventh, and the second book in his New Harmony series. Cinema of Shadows was everything that I could want in a ghost story: an intelligent professor with a sordid past, a group of teenagers searching for answers in a Ghost Adventures fashion, a haunted movie theater, a well paced story, and an exorcism from Hell. Plus a few familiar faces. Cinema of Shadows did not disappoint.

10.) Crab Town - Crab Town was my first official foray into the genre known as Bizarro. At first I wasn't sure what to expect, but after a long few weeks of doing some investigating, I finally decided on a Bizarro title to read. Crab Town is set in a post-apocalyptic future. One where radiation has poisoned the living, and balloon people are real. Carlton Mellick III manages to take a down right crazy assortment of ideas and make something intelligent and thought provoking out of it. Crab Town is the literary equivalent to the A-Team and Waterworld... minus the water.
11.) Devil Red - And last but not least is the newest entry in Joe R. Lansdale's Hap & Leonard series, Devil Red. With Devil Red Lansdale manages to keep all the familiarities of the past novels in tact,-- including Lansdale's memorable quick wit -- while subtly introducing hard cold realizations that will change the face of the Hap and Leonard's relationship, and their future as East Texas detectives. At first I wasn't sure how to react to Devil Red, but after several re-reads it all became clear. Here's the cover-flap description:
Hap Collins and Leonard Pine return in a red-hot, mayhem-fueled thriller to face a vampire cult, the Dixie Mafia, and the deadliest assassin they’ve ever encountered—Devil Red.

When their friend Marvin asks Hap and Leonard to look into a cold-case double homicide, they’re more than happy to play private investigators: they like trouble, and they especially like getting paid to find it. It turns out that both of the victims were set to inherit serious money, and one of them ran with a vampire cult. The more closely Hap and Leonard look over the crime-scene photos, the more they see, including the image of a red devil’s head painted on a tree. A little research turns up a slew of murders with that same fiendish signature. And if that’s not enough, Leonard has taken to wearing a deerstalker cap . . . Will this be the case that finally sends Hap over the edge?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Seventh Star Press Author Interviews and Give Away!

I'm excited to bring to you all the first interview of the year. And if I do say so myself, what a way to start off the year!

I've been a fan of Seventh Star Press for around a year now, so when they announced that they would be doing .$99 e-short stories, I nearly jumped out of my skin. I've been wanting to find a way to share the works of the Seventh Star authors I've read, without have to lend out my personal copies. So, when Stephen Zimmer asked if I would be interested in doing an interview with himself and two of the other featured authors and do a massive give away, I jumped at the opportunity.

There will be three give aways. Each contest winner will receive the eight short stories in their choice of electronic formats (Kindle, Nook).

In order to win, just leave a comment at the end of this post with your name and e-mail, or you can just e-mail me directly at scifiguysbookreview (at) gmail (dot) com or,  (scifiguysbookreview@gmaill.com). The contest will run from today until January 19th at midnight. The winners of this awesome give away will be announced the next day.

For those interested here's a breakdown of the short stories by their authors (with my rating of each next to the titles):

Stephen Shrewsbury:
Author and Finisher of Our Flesh 4/5
Insurmountable 4/5

Stephen Zimmer:
Temples Rising 3.5/5
Lion Heart 4/5
Land of Shadow 3.5/5

Michael West:
For the River is Wide and the Gods are Hungry 4/5
Goodnight 5/5

Now, without further ado, I give you three of Seventh Star Press' authors, Steven Shrewsbury, Stephen Zimmer and Michael West:

SFG: “For the River is Wide and the Gods are Hungry,” has a very Harlan Ellison feel to it. Was that intentional?

MW: Well, the title is a tribute to Ellison, not the story itself.  I'm a huge fan of his work, especially his work for Sci-Fi televison. One of my favorite titles ever was for a classic Star Trek episode, "For All the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky." I always wanted to have a long, cool-sounding title like. The original title for my short story collection was My Skull Is Full of Dark Kisses, but some writer friends urged me to shorten it. Most publishers want short 1-3 word titles for novels and collections now, so I thought my best chance to have that long, cool title in was on a piece of short fiction, and this one really fits the story well.

SFG: “Author and Finisher of Our Flesh,” and “Insurmountable,” are the two Gorias La Gaul short stories that have been released in the first wave of the Seventh Star Short Stories. Because La Gaul has such a vast history, does it matter in which order these two shorts are read?

SS: Gorias is 700ish in THRALL. I’d say AUTHOR takes place probably two hundred years before that (and there are a few hints at the forthcoming prequel, OVERKILL, and a General from that novel, and a different realm, are mentioned in foresahdowing events there). For example, the monarch that might come to the throne is mentioned in AUTHOR, but in OVERKILL that man is long dead and his aged daughter rules. In this pre-flood world, many live to be to their 900s, but in different points of the world, the process is slower. INSURMOUNTABLE is earleir than AUTHOR by quite a bit, showing La Gaul a tad younger.

SFG: Your four short stories all seem to have a certain feel to them, each one striking a different chord with me as I read them. Is music a major factor in your writing? Were there any specific soundtracks or albums that you listened to while writing these stories?

SZ: I always listen to music when I'm writing, which is one of the main elements in my routine/setup, in addition to having a dedicated place in the house where I do my writing, and writing alone. The music helps me create that bubble that helps block off the outside world, and get me into the right zone every day.

As far as what I listen to, I primarily listen to hard rock and heavy metal, ranging from the more straightforward stuff like AC/DC, ranging up to the heavily orchestrated/symphonic like Nightwish, and everything in between. From Black Sabbath to Trans-Siberian Orchestra, I love heavy-edged music in all of its forms. Sometimes I find myself gravitating to a certain kind of music on certain scenes, such as something big and epic like Symphony X, Nightwish, or Dream Theater for a large-scale, grander scene, to something like Slayer, Machine Head, or Testament when I'm doing a horror genre story, or one of the Abyss scenes in the Rising Dawn Saga. The music does help with the mood, as well as forming that nice backdrop that keeps outside sounds and distractions at bay.

With three of the short stories, I didn't have my mind set on anything absolutely specific music-wise. The fourth is an exception, as there is a fantastic Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath song, Glory Ride, off of their very underrated Eternal Idol album, which was part of the inspiration for the story Into Glory Ride. The song would fit very well with Marragesh at the end of the story! I titled the story Into Glory Ride as a tip of the cap to this inspiration!

SFG: “Goodnight,” your second short story from your TALES FROM HARMONY series, is an emotionally charged, hair raising story. After re-reading it several times, one thing stood out in my mind, and that was the old adage: “Write what you know.” Does this saying have any relativity to your story “Goodnight?”

MW: I’d had the idea of twins trying to fool Death for some time, but I didn’t really know what to do with it until I had children of my own. One night, while reading my sons a goodnight story, I had this image of my grandmother reading to them instead. So I decided that was the way to approach the tale.  When I finished “Goodnight,” I showed it to my living grandmother (something I’d written that I thought she might be able to stomach). She read it in one sitting, then told me that her childhood neighbor actually had the same accident as one of the twins in the story. She said she didn’t remember ever telling me that, and I didn’t remember ever hearing it.  I like “Goodnight” a lot, and it thrills me that the story strikes a chord with so many. It was named the Best Horror Short Story of 2005 in the annual P&E Readers Poll, and people still come up to me and tell me they’ve read it to their own children. One day, I hope to read it to my children’s children.

SFG: With the release of your next Gorias La Gaul novel coming out sometime this year, is there anything you could tell readers about it?

SS: OVERKILL takes place several years before THRALL, and everyone will get more glimpses of Gorias past, his upbringing and past exploits. Gorias’ is contracted by Queen Garnet of Transalpina to secure her lost granddaughter, who was abducted years before and lives amongst the pirates. But while he prepares to leave, aided by an amazon guard, a series of murders take place in the Capitol via the use of dragonfire. That is impossible since all the dragons are gone. Gorias is knee deep in royal intrigue, religious fanatics and pirates dealing in dragonfire from the mobile realm of the fallen angel, Pergamus. The book is an action packed, raw ride, full of dark humor and a few twists I think that will stun everyone.

SFG: Each of your short stories set in both your urban fantasy and epic fantasy series' are large, and sweeping, with each series consisting of six to seven volumes. Now that you're at, or close to the halfway mark in both series, have you found it harder to juggle of the characters and worldbuilding?

SZ: I haven't had any trouble at all. If anything, my understanding of the worlds just deepen and grow with the progress though the novels. I know Ave and the realms in the Rising Dawn Saga even better through the experiences of the short stories and the ongoing novel titles. As the two series have each been concentrated on, construction-wise, as full series, I have a very purposeful approach to each title in relation to the whole. Readers will find the first books to be very foundational, and subsequent books to have smoothly flowing threads from earlier installments, as well as a continuing acceleration in pace. The grand finales will be spectacular in scale, I can assure you of that, LOL!

SFG: With the announcement of POSIEDON'S CHILDREN, the first book in a four part urban fantasy series titled “Legacy of the Gods,” is there any chance that we might see some short stories released in the future, set in this urban fantasy series?

MW: I'm sure you will. I would love to put out some shorts between each novel to serve as a kind of bridge from one to the next, or to explore more of the mythology beyond what's in the books themselves. People who have read Poseidon tend to get very passionate about those characters and the world they live in. There are a lot of possibilities there. 

SFG: Yetis, giant flesh absorbing monsters, beholders, and dragons are just a few of the creatures that readers will experience when reading your stuff. With the antediluvian world that you have created within the mythos of THRALL and soon to be released OVERKILL, would it be safe to assume that Gorias La Gaul has seen and fought just about everything that stalks his world?

SS: You haven’t even seen the Cytaurs in OVERKILL yet…but he’s been through the ringer. In this time, everything was a different, I reckon, so Gorias has a long history to explore. He’s a fun character and at times the twists surprise me.

SFG: How does writing large novels compare to short stories? Which do you prefer more?

SZ: I love the novel format because it gives me the room to develop a number of threads, and weave together a more complex plot. As far as the process goes, novels and short stories are very different entities, and readers expectations can be quite different as well. Readers will give you a little more room pace-wise to develop a novel-length story, whereas an author really has to connect very rapidly in short fiction. Both still require the creation of compelling characters and good story concepts, but in short stories you do not have the time to thoroughly flesh a world out, or gradually develop a character like you do in a novel.

SFG: Is there anything that you gentlemen would like to add?

MW: I would like to thank Seventh Star Press for giving its authors this sandbox to play in.  It's a lot of fun for us as writers to be able to continue to explore our various worlds and characters outside the confines of the novels; it gives faithful readers a way to stay connected to the series, and new readers a way to discover us.  People are much more willing to take a chance on something unfamiliar if it costs less than a cup of coffee to try.

SS: Nab the eBook shorts and prepare for OVERKILL, a hard hitting work any action lover will enjoy. Be on the look out for me on the road this year at a Con or if my truck breaks down…

SFG: Thanks so much gentlemen, for taking time out of your busy lives and writing schedules to sit down and have a chat! I thoroughly enjoyed each and every short story that's been released through Seventh Star Press' e-book line thus far, and I can't wait to see what else you all have up your sleeves!

SZ:  Thank you Rodney! And thank you to everyone who has read this interview. Great to be here, and don't worry, there's a ton up my sleeves. Both series are fertile ground for a huge number of short stories in the long run, and I will be developing my steampunk characters, Harvey and Solomon, in further adventures, and also making some forays into horror very soon. Going to be a busy year! :)

Update: This contest is no longer open. Thanks go to those that submitted their information for some great reads!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2012: The Year of Books

Well folks, another year has come and gone. I hope you all had a wonderful New Year!

Believe it or not, it's another year I missed my reading goals. I did manage to read a large number of titles, but didn't manage to put up as many reviews as what I should have. This year will most definitely be different. Yes, a large majority of people who make New Years Resolutions say that, and never make it through the full year with their goals still in tact.

You see, for the last few years, I've set the goal of reading 100 titles in a year. Novels, novellas, biographies, short story anthologies/collections, trade-paperback comics... they all count towards my goal of 100. I haven't managed to actually read that many books in a year, but I have a feeling that this year will be different. It's not even the middle of January yet, and I've already hit read 13 titles. Most of which will get a review here on Sci-Fi Guys. However, not all of the books that I plan on reading this year will get a review on Sci-Fi Guys. Those that aren't speculative fiction, will see mention, and maybe a brief review on my personal writing website, The Bloody Pen. I'm already keeping track of all the titles that I've read, on a special page all to themselves.

I've also promised myself that I'll read a short story a day for a full year. 2012 is that year. It was a personal challenge that I adapted, after having a fairly in-depth discussion about the concept with Bizarro author Nicole Cushing. Unless the short story anthologies/collections that I read in 2012 are speculative fiction, a review for them will show up on the site. This, I've discovered, will help me two-fold: 1.) I don't post enough short story reviews, and 2.) I don't read enough short stories.

But, I digress...

Stay tuned folks, because this year is going to be crazy with more reviews, interviews and give-aways than you'll know what to do with!