Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Night of the Living Trekkies

Amazon book description:
Journey to the final frontier of sci-fi zombie horror!
Jim Pike was the world’s biggest Star Trek fan—until two tours of duty in Afghanistan destroyed his faith in the human race. Now he sleepwalks through life as the assistant manager of a small hotel in downtown Houston.
But when hundreds of Trekkies arrive in his lobby for a science-fiction convention, Jim finds himself surrounded by costumed Klingons, Vulcans, and Ferengi—plus a strange virus that transforms its carriers into savage, flesh-eating zombies!
As bloody corpses stumble to life and the planet teeters on the brink of total apocalypse, Jim must deliver a ragtag crew of fanboys and fangirls to safety. Dressed in homemade uniforms and armed with prop phasers, their prime directive is to survive. But how long can they last in the ultimate no-win scenario?

Buy Night of the Living Trekkies

Sorry. There's a Trek con in Vancouver this weekend and resistance was futile.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

If you can't say anything good...

Self publishing in the 15th  century.

Sometimes it's not easy writing reviews.* I believe in being honest about how I feel about the books I post here. I don't go out of my way to be mean. I don't believe in any kind of bullying whatsoever. Most people realize that I am just one person and don't give my criticism too much weight. No one is going to kill themselves over what I write here. I hope.

A while back I was contacted by an author (who will remain nameless) and asked if I would like to review the first two books of her four book series. In her email she told me a little about the story and it sounded really cool. I was looking forward to reading them.

When the books came they were published by “self publish” print-on-demand company called AuthorHouse. Self-publishing used to be called “vanity publishing” for a very good reason. Not that good books can't come out of this kind of publishing. I vaguely remember a story about a famous novel that was first published by the author and sold out of the back of his car.

Unfortunately a lot of garbage is also published this way. Not that these books are garbage. I think publication was a little premature.

I have to give the woman props for being brave enough to contact strangers and ask them to review her work. I just wish she had spent the $600 she gave AuthorHouse on hiring a professional editor. The writing in the first book (I didn't even open the second) is both too formal and awkward.

Let's start with the back cover blurb. You know I judge a book by it's blurb. You've got about 30 seconds to interest me before I move on to another book. The blurb on this book is wordy and complicated. It really needs editing.

Below the blurb is a bit about the author. Then what happens to the heroine at the end of the fourth book is there in print. Why bother reading the book now that I know how it ends?

There's also a dedication on the back cover. While it is a nice sentiment, I don't think it belongs on the back cover. Especially when it is already inside the book. Just my personal preference.

Things that bugged me in the first few pages:

The black darkness beyond the door looked like a step into infinity.”

Does “darkness” come in colors now? I must have missed the memo. Beyond the “infinity” cliché, the first thing I thought of after reading that sentence was “To infinity and beyond” from Toy Story.

As her small, booted feet descended the narrow stairs...”

Just her feet? The rest of her stayed behind? It's a small thing but it took me out of the story.

No guards, she thought. Everyone must be downstairs, perhaps for an important event. Otherwise their monstrous guards greet and kill any intruder.” (author's italics)

Who thinks “perhaps” beside maybe, Yoda? It's just awkward.

The bottom of the stairs opened into an amphitheatre belowground.”

Nothing really wrong with that sentence except for the fact that a few paragraphs before the author already stated that most of the building is underground and her heroine (or her feet) descended from ground level. Oh and “belowground?”

The heroine “screamed in pain” more than once in the first 4 pages (two different fights). Not really wrong just kind of annoying. Pet peeve.

Then the story skips 200 years and we get this passage:

“Do you think this is the place?” W** asked two other young men as they walked toward a large wooden gate. Above the gate, two guard towers could be seen. The wall surrounding the city was about ten feet high and clearly damaged in many places. 
“It looks like home, but different,” said D**, pointing up. The stars in the clear-blue sky still lit the familiar age-old path to the once-great city of G*****. The time of year was early summer, so the air was slightly cool. Snowcapped mountains framed the city in the distance. Opposite the city gate, a large forest stood tall. 
“So this is G*****'s future after we died.” said G**, a small blonde-haired man wearing blue robes with silver trim. 
“This doesn't look very good,” said W**, a handsome man with black hair and a mustache who was wearing a rich red cloak with black clothing and boots underneath. 
“It's like the dragon said, I suppose. We have been asked to return to our home world long after our own deaths,” said D**, as his red hair glistened in the bright sun. He wore dull green clothing with his light boots and a green cloak, drab compared to his companions.
“Yes,” said G**, “He said the danger we left after peace was declared by our king following the Great War pales in comparison to the danger G***** is in now. 
“So,” said W**, “shall we knock on the door and see what our descendants are like or just stay out here?"
Oh, where to start. “stars in the clear-blue sky” Blue sky at night? It's a fantasy novel so... um.. no. Three paragraphs later we get “his red hair glistened in the bright sun.”

In screenwriting there is the adage “show don't tell.” I think in novels it should be “describe but don't make your characters vomit exposition.” And before you commit any dialogue to print you should read it into a tape recorder. Or have a friend read it to you. That's the best advice I ever got when it came to writing good dialogue. The characters in this book do not speak like real people. The dialogue is very stiff.

The Tale of Two Sentences
Her version: The wall surrounding the city was about ten feet high and clearly damaged in many places.
My version: The ten foot wall surrounding the city had suffered heavy damage.
Not really anything wrong with either sentence. One is just easier to read. Maybe that is also personal preference.

Some people might think that all this is just being picky. Maybe they're right. I just found these things distracting. All of the examples here are found in the first six pages. If you don't grab me by page six you'll never get me. If I'm noticing stylistic or technical problems I will stop reading. I think a lot of people are like that.

I think this story idea could work. I hope that the author will get professional editing help or find a, published by traditional (professional) means, writing mentor. I also hope she doesn't get cheated out of royalties by AuthorHouse. A quick search turned up dozen of writers who were told they only sold 3 books

Most of all the author should remember that this is only one person's opinion. To quote the late, great Ricky Nelson: “You can't please everyone.”

So what say you oh gentle (quiet) readers? Am I being to harsh or do you agree with me? Somewhere in between?

*Sorry this is a day late. I was really trying to put it off as long as I could.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cowboys & Aliens Traler

Release Date: July 29

Book Description:
 When an extra-terrestrial armada lands in the Wild West, they find themselves in a showdown with one tough posse of rough-and-ready heroes—and the Cowboys and Aliens graphic novel gives you the thrilling comic book stories that started it all off! Compiling every issue of Scott Mitchell Rosenberg’s electrifying comic book series, this gorgeous, full-color graphic novel features the dynamic creative talents of Fred Van Lente, Andrew Foley, and Luciano Lima—as well as all-new tie-in art from the spectacular motion picture, starring Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, and Sam Rockwell. Whether you’re rooting for the gunslingers or the little green men, don’t bring your guns to town without reading a copy of the Cowboys and Aliens graphic novel!

Buy Cowboys and Aliens

Friday, May 20, 2011

Kiss of Fate

Kiss of Fate

Kiss of Fate is a paranormal romance. Normally I run from anything that has “romance” on the cover. I suppose I should get over it. The genre has come a long way from the Harlequins of my youth. I didn't even notice that the book was classified as a paranormal romance until after I'd finished it. Any story that has to characters who meet and fall in love could be considered a romance these days.

I picked this book up because it was about dragons. I love dragons. I've been cookoo for dragons since I started reading Anne McCaffrey's The Dragonriders of Pern decades ago. I'm also kind of picky about my dragon books. I won't read any where dragons are all evil and must be killed by the hero. I've got no time for that kind of anti-dragon propaganda.

Cooke's Dragonfire novels give us a race of dragons, called Pyr for some strange reason, who can take human form. They were created to watch over the Earth. They also guard humans. At some point, some of the Pyr decided that humans were wrecking the Earth and should be eradicated. This group became known as the Slayers. The Slayers and the Pyr are at war. The fate of humanity hangs in the balance.

How's that for drama?

In Kiss of Fate, the leader of the Pyr, Erik Sorensson, is worried about a prophecy that says victory over the Slayers will need a blood sacrifice. He is convinced that he will have to die for the Pyr to win and he's okay with that. Unfortunately, karma has other plans. He's about to meet Eileen Grosvenor, a mythologist researching a story of a dragon lover. Her presence in London triggers Erik's second “firestorm.” A firestorm is a lot like Pon Farr except it only happens once in a Pyr's life.

Erik is not expecting to get hit with a firestorm because he's already had his centuries ago. He tries to fight the urge to mate because he thinks he will die soon. He doesn't want to leave a child without a father. He is determined to stay away from Eileen but that goes out the window when she is attacked by a Slayer. Eileen has something the Slayers want. Something that would give them victory over the Pyrs. Of course it would also guarantee the Pyr's victory if Eric can get the item away from Eileen.

Cooke's world is very well developed. There's a lot of history to the Pyr. It's a rich mythology with a lot of twists and turns to keep the reader interested. This novel focuses on Erik but I have the feeling that each book focuses on a different member of the Pyr. Now that I know Erik's story I'm going to have to get the previous books to catch up. Just what I need. Another series to get caught up in.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Those In Peril Trailer

Amazon Book Description:
Hazel Bannock is heir to the Bannock Oil Corporation, one of the major global oil producers. While cruising the Indian Ocean, her yacht is hijacked by Somalian pirates and her nineteen-year-old daughter, Cayla, kidnapped. The pirates demand a crippling twenty-billion-dollar ransom for her release, and complicated political and diplomatic sensitivities render the major powers incapable of intervening.  
            With growing evidence of the horrific torture to which Cayla is being subjected, Hazel calls on Hector Cross to help her rescue her daughter. Hector is the man behind Cross Bow Security, the company contracted to Bannock Oil Corporation to provide all their protection. He is a formidable fighting man. Between them, Hazel and Hector are determined to take the law into their own hands.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Aztec Heresy

The Aztec Heresy by Paul Christopher is a book I wish I'd never laid eyes on. I believe in truth in advertising. I get pissed off when I'm mislead. I really hate it when I've wasted my time on a book that didn't live up to it's advertising. I often pick books based on what's written on the back. I expect that whatever is printed on the back cover is directly related to what is in the book. In the case of The Aztec Heresy, I was really mislead.

Here's what it read on the front cover under the title:
An ancient secret.
A lost city.
A treasure that could change history.

Here's the “blurb” from the back:

Archaeologist Finn Ryan stumbles upon a mystery dating back to the Spanish Inquisition – and a secret with catastrophic implication for the present.
In search of a Spanish galleon in the Caribbean, Finn Ryan and her partner, Lord Billy Pilgrim, find evidence of a lost Aztec Codex. The invaluable book, created by fifteenth-century explorer and accused heretic Hernan Cortez, is said to reveal the secret location of the lost City of Gold. Finn and Billy soon realize they are not alone in their quest.
Also on the trail is the head of a menacing religious cadre, who will kill to get the codex first, as well as a sociopathic billionaire, with his own sinister reasons for wanting to possess it. But while trying to find the codex – and stay alive – Finn and Billy come upon an even greater and more explosive secret. This mystery will take them from the jungles of the Yucatan to the Sonoran Desert, where the stakes are life and death and the game is just beginning.

Sounds pretty good. Too bad that's not what the book is about.


This is Christopher's fourth book. At least one of the previous books featured Finn and Billy. I haven't read them and, having read The Aztec Heresy, I don't think I ever will. I can only guess that the characters of Finn and Billy were fleshed out in the previous book(s). That would explain why there's virtually no character development in this book.

While on the subject of characters, is there anything more boring than an impoverished British lord turned fortune hunter? Just saying.

There's so much wrong with the back cover blurb I don't know where to start. Okay. Let's take it sentence by sentence.

“...Finn stumbles upon a mystery dating back to the Spanish Inquisition – and a secret with catastrophic implication for the present...”

At the beginning of the book Finn and Billy are in the reading rooms of the General Archives of the Indies in Seville, Spain. The reason why they are there in the first place is never explained. While there Billy translates a bunch of documents pertaining to 16th century Spanish ships. In one he finds the name of a Dominican Friar that Finn recognizes. Her father had previously mentioned the Friar in connection with a codex. Finn decides to abandon whatever brought them to the records and go after this codex which may or may not exist.

“a secret with catastrophic implications for the present.”

The codex supposedly contains a map to Cortez's treasure. No secrets. No heresy. Just a stupid treasure map.

“Finn and Billy soon realize they are not alone in their quest.”

Actually they are alone. The other characters in the book have other reasons for wanting them out of the way.

“Also on the trail is the head of a menacing religious cadre, who will kill to get the codex first...”

Cardinal Rossi wants to stop Finn and Billy from getting to the ship because if they find it it will connect to the Vatican somehow and it will look very bad. It's all very vague and never explained. Eventually we learn that Rossi is part of a secret group that grew from Propaganda Due The new group is called Cavallo Nero which the book states means Black Knight. Where the hell were the editors? Cavallo Nero means black horse.

“...a sociopathic billionaire, with his own sinister reasons for wanting to possess it...”

The billionaire is the head of a drug company. His company wants to add a substance extracted from a plant that grows in the Yucatan that makes anything addictive. (???!) He's dealing with a drug lord named Guzman. He's in a rush to get products on the market before anyone finds out why people get addicted to his products.

At one point, the billionaire has his son try and kill Finn and Billy but there's no real reason given. I suppose Rossi told him too. No real explanation.

The bulk of the novel is a drawn out story of Guzman, the Cuban sub commander who transports Guzman's drugs and a Mexican spy. The big draw is a nuclear bomb that was carried by an American plane that crashed in the 60s. The last two characters in this book are a German/American information broker hired by the billionaire and a hired assassin working for the Cardinal.

Rossi convinced the Vatican bank to invest in the billionaire's company knowing full well that he was in bed with a known drug lord. If that got out it would be disastrous for the the Church. Nothing to do with the codex at all.

Finn and Billy eventually find the treasure. We're told that in two lines. It's not relevant to the story. The Mexican spy (with Finn and Billy's help) gets rid of the bomb. Most of the people involved are dead by the end of the book. The assassin kills the information broker and walks off into the sunset...

So there you have it. Misleading is the nicest thing I can say about that book cover. I think it would have been an interesting story without all the codex nonsense. I've just realized that this feels like a “contractual obligation” book. It feels as if Christopher was under contract to write another Finn and Billy book so he wrote this mess.