It's that time! The new Dancing Lemur Press anthology featuring my story "The Dark Charade" is scheduled to drop in three months, but first things first: It's cover reveal time:
Without further ado...
And here's the deets:
Masquerade: Oddly Suited
An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology
Release date – April 30, 2019
Young Adult Fiction: Romance - General/Paranormal/Contemporary
Print ISBN 9781939844644
EBook ISBN 9781939844651
Find love at the ball…
Can a fake dating game show lead to love? Will a missing key free a clock-bound prince? Can a softball pitcher and a baseball catcher work together? Is there a vampire living in Paradise, Newfoundland? What’s more important—a virtual Traveler or a virtual date to the ball?
Ten authors explore young love in all its facets, from heartbreak to budding passion. Featuring the talents of L.G. Keltner, Jennifer Lane, C.D. Gallant-King, Elizabeth Mueller, Angela Brown, Myles Christensen, Deborah Solace, Carrie-Anne Brownian, Anstice Brown, and Chelsea Marie Ballard.
Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these ten tales will mystify and surprise even as they touch your heart. Don your mask and join the party…
Monday, January 28, 2019
Wednesday, January 23, 2019
Pawn by Timothy Zahn (read by Joel Richards)
(I actually read/listened to this one almost a year ago. I wrote this review but it's been sitting in "drafts" ever since.)
I'm a big Star Wars fan. When I was a teenager, during the lull in Star Wars films between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace, I devoured all the tie-in novels, games and comics that kept the spirit alive. By far, the best books in those early series was the Heir to the Empire trilogy by Timothy Zahn. I've heard some say that Zahn's books were even better than the original Star Wars trilogy of movies, and I'd be willing to consider that claim. He has an accessible, well-paced style that works beautifully for genre fiction, and he has a knack for military sci-fi that is unparalleled. He comes up with these tactics and plans that are simply brilliant. Despite how much I loved his Star Wars books though, for some reason I had never read any of Zahn's other works. So when I saw this new book, the start of a new series, pop up in my audiobook feed, I thought I would finally give it a shot.
This is not Star Wars. It has none of the sweeping, epic mythology of Star Wars, nor any of the military or espionage that Zahn is famous far. It's a story about a small group of humans from our modern day Earth, abducted by mysterious aliens and put to work on a massive, equally mysterious spaceship in the middle of nowhere. Though they do encounter an odd alien here and there, the main thrust of this story is about the protagonist interacting with the other displaced humans as they go about their daily routines. It's an odd sort of setup for what is ostensibly supposed to be a sci-fi adventure, but a setup it is, as the truth of the ship and the aliens and the hero's purpose are all revealed in the last chapter or so. This is very obviously the beginning of a much longer series - it could have equally have been the first half (or even third) of one of those big doorstopper books that fantasy and sci-fi tend to favour.
That said, the story is well told, and the main character, though frustrating at times, is one I can root for. I've heard complaints that she's passive and weak, especially at the beginning, but that's rather the point. She's a young woman and an addict who grew up surrounded by abusive relationships and was a lackey for a street gang - it takes her awhile to overcome this background and grow into a more confident, assertive person - and even a leader - by the story's end.
Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett (read by Nigel Planer)
Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett (read by Stephen Briggs)
I love Terry Pratchett. I don't need to go to that in depth right now (though maybe I should write a full post about him one of these days). I listened to two of his books last month, one of my favourites (Guards! Guards!) and one I actually hadn't read before (Thief of Time).
They are two very different books. Thief of Time is very good, dealing with more esoteric themes (the nature of time and existence), and has a mixture of some of Pratchett's best characters (Death and Susan Sto Helit) as well as some that only ever appear in this book (The History Monks). The Auditors (other-worldly god-like beings that are basically celestial accountants) are trying to destroy the human race for being unpredictable. The History Monks, an ancient order of Shaolin-like monks charged with protecting the flow of time and history, work to stop them. Meanwhile, Death tries to get the Horsemen back together (who have gotten old and lazy) to ride out for the upcoming Apocalypse. Through it all, Death's granddaughter, the school teacher Susan, is just trying to put it all back together and save the universe.
I really enjoyed it, and the character of "The Sweeper," Lu Tze, could be an all-time best Discworld personality up there with Rincewind and Captain Carrot, but this audiobook version was seriously hampered by some of narrator Stephen Briggs'... unfortunate choices. Briggs read all of the History Monks' voices with awful, stereotypical Chinese/Asian accents, sounding like Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's or the waiters at the end of A Christmas Story. It was painful. Worse, there are so many different monks, and Briggs tried to use different voices for all of them... it was just bad. It was also inconsistent, and he regularly dropped in and out of the voice for some of the main characters. I cringed every time one of them spoke. I know Briggs has read many of the Discworld books and he has many fans, so I really hope the next one will be better.
On the flip side, Guards! Guards! is easily one of Pratchett's best books. It introduces the Night's Watch, the hapless, foolhardy police force of the capital city, one of the Discworld's best continuing storylines. It's like Brooklyn Nine-Nine in a medieval fantasy city. I also realized upon revisiting this for the first time in years that Guards! Guards! also introduced a number of classic Discworld tropes, such as the fact that a last, desperate, million-to-one shot always succeeds (and thus the characters will try to purposefully make their tasks harder to get them as close to a million-to-one as possible), as well as that the concentration of knowledge in libraries is so powerful that it opens up portals to alternate dimensions called L-space. Both are important plot points in this ridiculous story of an incompetent police squad investigating murder by dragons.
Narrator Nigel Planer is superb, absolutely nailing the voices of some characters like Corporal Knobs and Sergeant Colon (Colon sounded exactly like Brendan Gleeson, and now I want to see Gleeson play the bumbling Sergeant in a movie version). His Vimes and Carrot were not what I expected, but they really grew on me over time. All that said, the sound quality of the recording was terrible - the volume constantly went up and down, and there were numerous obvious cuts and edits in the track. I don't know if this was the fault of Planer or the producers, but I would have expected better in a professional-level recording.
Louis L'Amour Collection (Narrated by Willie Nelson)
I grew up in a house full of Louis L'Amour books. He is my father's favourite author, so I seem to have been drawn to him by some kind of conditioning or osmosis.
I haven't read many westerns outside of L'Amour, but he is a perfectly competent adventure writer, capturing the feel of the old west (or what is stereotypical in popular fiction as the "old west") in a easy, well-paced style. This collection contains about ten short-stories, and even with this small sample they get a little repetitive (how many stories can you write about stealing cattle and jumping land claims, anyway? And this collection features at least two stories about mistaken identity) but that being said, the fact that the man wrote hundreds of novels and short stories with any variety at all is incredibly impressive.
I've said it before and I stand by it - the only difference between westerns and romances is how much punching is involved. There's always a love interest, the leads are always described the same way in both, and both usually feature horses. But after listening to this batch I was also struck by how similar westerns are to sci-fi (I kinda knew it already, but this one really stood out for some reason). In any of these stories, you could have easily replaced the hero with Han Solo or Malcolm Reynolds, swapped the six-shooters for lasers and horses for spaceships, and *poof* instant space opera.
Willie Nelson is (perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not) an excellent narrator. He doesn't have that polished sound that most American narrators use, which is a plus in my book, and he doesn't go in for fancy voices and accents. But he is a fabulous storyteller, with a warm, down-home voice that really draws you in. It's like listening to a smiling grandpa or uncle tell you a story, which is not a bad thing. There's a reason Nelson is one of the most beloved and celebrated entertainers in America.
Two of the stories also featured full casts, scores and sound effects, making them full-on audio dramatizations, like old-time radio plays. I was honestly kinda ho-hum about this; generally I just prefer my audiobooks being one reader telling me a story, even if they're doing a bunch of silly accents. While I also enjoy radio plays, I feel like that's a different genre/style altogether, and borrowing so much for what is ostensibly an audiobook feels like trying too hard. That being said, one of the stories features a star-studded cast with voices provided by the likes of Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, so that was kinda neat. And the other story featured one guy who sounded EXACTLY like former pro-wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin, though I can't find credits for the story anywhere to confirm whether this is true. I even asked Steve Austin himself on Twitter about it, but he didn't get back to me.
Wednesday, January 2, 2019
It's nice that this contest is open and transparent, but it's also weird seeing the behind the scenes workings that you don't usually have to think about.
The unfortunate part of not continuing in the contest is that my sales have completely dried up. After being chosen as a semi-finalist, my sales were better than they had ever been, and I was raking in regular positive reviews, too. Now that's all gone, and I suspect my sales will go back to their regular pattern of 1-2 books every 3 months. Without any new books scheduled in the immediate future I don't see a big change coming, so yeah, there are certainly some insecurities there.
I also won a small writing contest in December! A Facebook group I'm in, the "Grimdark Readers and Writers" group, held a contest were members submitted a story and they were blindly judged by other members of the group. Mine stood out because of course being me, I can't take anything seriously. Despite the theme and genre being "grimdark" my story was a 3000-word-long elaborate dick joke (no, seriously). Still, people really seemed to enjoy it, but it was nerve-wracking watching each round of the one-on-one, single elimination voting and counting the votes to see which story everyone preferred.
Silly me: I thought because people liked the story they might go try out some of my other works, especially the Werebear vs Landopus stories which are exactly the same style as my winning story (and are free on Kindle Unlimited). Of course, my win resulted in exactly one (1) new sale, so my hopeful expectations may have been slightly misplaced. Plus, one of the perks of winning the contest was to be interviewed on the Grim Tidings Podcast, one of my favourite podcasts about writing and publishing. Then a week after I won, they announced the Grim Tidings Podcast would not be continuing in 2019. Sigh.
Personal Non-Writing News
My wife's surgery was postponed again. Two days before the procedure was scheduled she ended up in the ER with a gallbladder attack. So now we're waiting to see the doctor to get that out before she can get the spinal cord stimulator trial. So yeah, December was a hectic, crazy month.
And Now the Good News:
...anthology of Young Adult Romance?
Yeah, I don't know how it happened, either. Well, except that I wrote a story and submitted it and they chose it. But besides that, I have no idea, dude.
I know, Pierre, this is how I feel most days.
Here's a full list of the winning stories:
Oddly Suited by LG KeltnerA Huge Thank You to the IWSG Admin team, the judges and the crazy folks at Dancing Lemur Press for picking one of my oddball stories again. You guys have weird tastes, I'll give you that. Further details about MASQUERADE: ODDLY SUITED are of course still to come, but for up-to-the-minute info, be sure to check out the IWSG website.
Sea of Sorrows by AV Brown
Behind the Catcher’s Mask by Jennifer Lane
A Diver’s Ball by Angela Brown
Fearless Heart by Deborah Solice
The Dark Charade by CD Gallant-King
The Cog Prince by Elizabeth Mueller
Flower of Ronda by Myles Christensen
Remedy by Chelsea Ballard
Charleston Masquerade by Carrie-Anne Brownian
Bonus Good News:
I mentioned this last week but being the middle of the holidays most of you probably didn't notice it: this year I will also once again be featured in the STRANGELY FUNNY VI anthology of comic supernatural stories published by Mystery and Horror! That's THREE years in a row for me with Strangely Funny, which I'm super proud of because I love their odd and quirky stories and my work fits perfectly in their collection.
Both Strangely Funny VI and Masquerade: Oddly Suited are scheduled to be released in April 2019. Keep an eye out for both of them!
That's it for now. Thank you for sticking with me and reading through my up-and-down 2018. It had its rough spots, probably not as bad as 2017, but it was rocky none-the-less. Here's to 2019 continuing on this slight upswing and hopefully having a smoother road.
I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and your 2019 pans out to be all you want it to be.
We twa hae run about the braes,
and pou'd the gowans fine;
But we've wander'd mony a weary fit,
sin' auld lang syne.
The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.