Lynch: A Gothic Western by Nancy A. Collins

CollinsLynchWhere I Got It: Review Copy

Narrator: Lucas D. Smith

Publisher: Nancy A. Collins (2012)

Length: 3 hours 15 minutes

Author’s Page

This is one of those wild weird west stories – and I really enjoyed every minute of it. So we got this guy, Johnny Pearl, wandering the Wyoming area post-Civil War. He’s killed a lot of people, has a reputation, and has to kill more people because idiots keep on challenging him to gun duels and won’t take ‘No’ for an answer. But then he finds his personal angel, Katie Small Dove. Too bad that doesn’t last long. The main antagonist, known as Cpt. Antioch Drake, strolls in and sets things ablaze, killing and hanging. But shortly after Drake and his soldiers clear out, a wonky medicine wagon rolls in, driven by Dr. Mirablis who has a special use for a hung corpse such as Johnny Pearl.

Even though this is novella length, we have a nice solid set up to give us an idea of who Johnny Pearl was before he met Katie, and who he was with Katie, to compare with what he becomes after Doc Mirablis hooks him up to a power source and forces him back to life. I really like that the author took the time to show that. Johnny starts off as a damaged warrior who isn’t sure he wants to warrior anymore but doesn’t see a good alternative (not until Katie enters his life). He goes from this typical damaged hero to this reluctant vengeful hero – a path I enjoyed reading.

Meanwhile, Doc Mirablis has a chip on his shoulder, something to prove. His once-friend and associate, Dr. Viktor Von Frankenstein, managed something incredible, and Mirablis plans to out do him! Cue evil scientist laughter. He’s already made a few attempts – such as the horse in the stable back at the hidden evil laboratory, and his two reluctant henchmen – Sasquatch and Pompeii. Sasquatch was made up of a collection of body parts from a slain Indian village, and as such, he has a rather unique take on his second life (or lives?). Meanwhile, Pompeii was Mirablis’s man servant for years before he died and Mirablis brought him back to life. There’s true loyalty there. But there’s a few costs to living for these once dead men (and horse). If Johnny doesn’t plan ahead, he could end up returning to the dead or becoming a true monster. Both costs make sense, but one is a wee bit bone chilling!

As you might have guessed, once Johnny gets his feet back under him, he is obsessed with revenge. Antioch Drake must die! But he’s not allowed to leave the hidden evil laboratory and the exit is well guarded. Too bad Johnny is rather single-minded, eh? The last quarter of the book is the most exciting. It was indeed nail biting. Given all the crap that has already happened to Johnny, and not knowing if there is a sequel out there (I don’t think there is), I was deeply concerned for our hero. I did not know if he would make it out of this story alive or not. When all was said and done, I was quite satisfied with how things ended, even with that little disturbing twist at the end.

My one little quibble is that we only 1 female character and she has such a small role, even if she has a big impact on Johnny Pearl.

I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the narrator (via Audiobook Blast) in exchange for an honest review.

Narration:  Lucas Smith was the perfect voice for Johnny Pearl. He had this gravelly, touch-of-sadness voice that really worked for the character. He had great accents for the other characters as well – like the German accent for Dr. Mirablis. The one female character had very few lines but Smith made them sound like a believable female. Later in the story, he has to make some interesting sounds for these walking dead men. An excellent performance all around.

What I Liked:  A wild weird west story!; love the cover art; really enjoyed Johnny Pearl’s character arc; the various twists were well placed and made this story stick with me; couple different ethnicities tossed in; very satisfying ending.

What I Disliked:  There’s only 1 female character and her role is rather tiny and she could really be almost any woman for the purposes of this story.

What Others Think:

Amie’s Book Review Blog

CNC Listening @ BDREGGE

Bloggity Update – Thankfulness

Heldig with a pile of audiobooks. She looks a little evil, does she not?

Heldig with a pile of audiobooks. She looks a little evil, does she not?

As some of you might have noticed, this year has been about the audiobooks. I’m definitely in love with them and I think they have kept me sane of late. As a few of you know, I have been struggling since December 2014 with a new health issue (on top of my long-time little devil called kidney disease). Basically, my phosphorus blood levels are very low. The cause of this is yet undiagnosed, though I continue to undergo various tests. Phosphorus is used to make energy (ATP) for every cell of the body. It is also used by the red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the body. If low on phosphorus, then fatigue becomes a constant issue. Literally, I am low on batteries. Some days, it feels like batteries are not included at all.

This new health issue has completely reshaped my life and in some ways, made it smaller. The never-ending, crushing fatigue has been the biggest bear to wrestle. There are many things I have had to give up and one of them is eyeball reading. It is a complete struggle these days. Hence, my switch to nearly 100% audiobooks. I have been trying to adapt, struggling through a few nonfictions, a few graphic novels, and one mystery thriller. But it has been difficult even to read these few books this year. What concentration I can muster up for eyeball reading generally goes into my blogging because I really don’t want this blog to go by the wayside like so much else has.

So, with that, I want to say a big thanks to so many people – folks who read this blog, all the narrators, authors, publishers, and the folks at Audiobook Jukebox who have granted me for-review audiobooks, and my awesome husband. The book blogging community, along with other audiobook aficionados on Facebook and Paperbackswap, have helped to keep me sane and somewhat well socialized. While I rarely have the energy to go out and physically socialize these days, I enjoy all the book discussions on line. I don’t comment as often as I should. Just know that I am lurking. ;)

I entered some audiobook contests earlier this year and won far more than I expected. A big thanks to Tantor (contest was via the weekly audiobook newsletter AudaVoxx) and Highbridge (via the Audio Book Reviewer) for all the audiobooks! Then I also won a lovely pile of audiobook CDs from AudioGals. I review well over 100 books a year, so these will be put to good use.

I don’t know what my life will be like next year, but I expect I will continue to enjoy audiobooks. In time, with a diagnosis and treatment, I hope to return to eyeball reading, as well as all my other activities that I have had to shelve of late. Until then, anyone have a great audiobook recommendation?

Kushiel’s Chosen Part IV

Tofu kitty with a very good book.

Tofu kitty with a very good book.

The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (of which Kushiel’s Chosen is Book 2) is one of my all time favorite series. The red along continues! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow is our host. We’re covering Chapters 37-49, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1. Last week we talked a bit about who might succeed Cesare Stregazza as Doge. This week we learn that he might not be out of the game just yet, after all. What are your thoughts on his discussion and agreement with Phédre?

Well, first it struck me that Phedre is once again being told she is a weapon by an old man in a foreign country (the first time was with the Skaldi in Book 1). So I thought that was pretty cool, that old men seem to see right to the heart of things.

I think Cesare is wise to bide his time and let folks think  he may be bowing out and that he is a bit doddering. They are more likely to giveaway their intentions in front of him. But he walks that thin line too. If folks no longer have confidence in him, because of this act, then the people in general may no longer want him in power.

2. Melisande resurfaces – and right where I did NOT expect to find her! What about you? And what do you think of her latest ambitious designs? When she and Phédre speak again after her capture, Phédre calls her mad; Melisande hints at “playing a god’s game”. Is this ambition or is it in fact madness?

The first time I read this book, I had that jaw-dropping moment when it was revealed where Melisande had been ‘hiding’. Her disguise is perfect though, plus she has a powerful protector.

As always, Melisande is playing the long game. Sure, they plan to kill Ysandre within weeks or months and take the Terre D’Ange throne shortly thereafter, but it is Melisande’s son that she plans to have rule for decades. right now, he is like…. 6 months? 3 months? old. So a lot could go wrong between now and when he is 20. Perhaps she just views Imriel as another game piece on the board.

Melisande is having delusions of grandeur. She’s got a lot going for her – wit, intelligence, charm, beauty, the espionage training, the education in politics & history. But she lacks one thing – she is not god touched.

3. Things fall apart for Phédre and Joscelin after so much pent-up angst – but our Cassiline isn’t done with her yet, thank goodness! Phédre’s escape from La Dolorosa, and Joscelin’s attempted rescue, is some of the most nail-biting drama we’ve seen yet in this story. Do you think Joscelin will manage to find her, or will he play it smarter and go to Ysandre instead?

When I first read this book, I couldn’t fathom what Joscelin would do. He’s not very good on open water – being all seasick and such. So he would have to put his trust in someone with a boat and the know how… and then where would he begin looking?

And Ysandre is coming to La Serenissima soon, probably all ready on her way. So he could wait for her to get there and then try to seek an audience. But Melisande is definitely looking for him and they might have it out with the city watch that he is wanted man. Not to many choices for our hero, huh?

4. New character alert! What are your initial impressions of Kazan and Glaukos? How much trouble is Phédre in this time?

Phedre’s in for some high seas adventure! Glaukos seems like a kindly uncle from the beginning. I think Phedre has some sort of magic charm over older men. Kazan definitely has a chip or two on his shoulders, but Phedre also has a unique way of dealing with men with pent up anger. ;)

Other Tidbts:

That final tumble between Phedre and Joscelin was a little heartbreaking. Lots of feelings floating around this section. Joscelin specifically says that Phedre doesn’t need him. How wrong he was.

Ah, Fortun & Remy! Jacqueline Carey sure does know how to yank on my heart strings.

I’m very glad that Phedre released all the prisoners even if some or most of them died that night. I think her comment about the prison being a mockery (or some such) of the goddess’s grief was spot on.

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
Nancy at FaeStruck’s Reviews & More
James at James T. Witherspoon
Emily at Emma Wolf
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with KUSHIEL’S CHOSEN in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

ZDate: A Zombie Romance by Charley Allen

AllenZDateWhere I Got It: Review Copy

Narrators: Angel Clark, Melissa Chatwood, Ray Greenley, David Dietz, Andrew Wehrlen

Publisher: Charley Allen (2015)

Length: 39 minutes

Author’s Page

 

Gary is a programmer and has been hired by zombies to create a zombie dating website for them. Gary is not too enthused at first, but then begins to see the monetary advantages to such a website. Meanwhile, Greg and Amy have met through the website and are trying to meet in real zombie life.

This was a fun audiobook with a fun cast. There are basically only 5 characters – Gary (evil programmer), Amy (hottie zombie), Greg (another hottie zombie), Stef (Amy’s BFF who would like to be more), and Zed (Greg’s wingman). Being zombiefied is just a new way of life that the young generation has gotten use to. Zombies hold jobs, go to college, and date. Hence, the need for a zombies-only dating site.

The story is told in a humorous fashion, often breaking that fourth wall and talking directly to the listener. Occasionally, the humor was a little overdone, a little over accentuated. But for the most part I was found it amusing and engaging.

My favorite character was Stef (with Gary being a close second). Stef chose to go zombie in order to stay friends with Amy. And I do believe Stef wouldn’t mind if things became more than friendly. Alas, I think she is in for heartache in the future as Amy seems completely oblivious.

Gary was fun partly because he is still human and partly because he is an ass. He really doesn’t like zombies and thinks of them as subhuman. Yet he will take their money to go start a website. He continues to be a jerk throughout the story, but his jerkscapades grow proportionately throughout this short tale. I loved the anticipation of watching him fall!

I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from one of the narrators (via the GoodReads Audiobooks group) in exchange for an honest review.

Narration:  The narration was tip top on this book. The full cast, not something you usually see for such a short story, really made this book work. Obviously, each character had their own distinct voice and each narrator did a great job of giving them attitude and emotions (even the zombie characters).

What I Liked:  Fun, humorous zombie tale; zombie dating!; interesting evil character; my favorite character was Stef; fun ending.

What I Disliked:  Occasionally the humor was a little overdone.

Interview: Kelly Michelle Baker, Author of The Waters of Nyra

BakerTheWatersOfNyraVol1Folks, please give a warm welcome to author Kelly Michelle Baker. We spend some quality time talking about one of my favorite things – biology! But we also chat about some of my other favorite things like Harry Potter, fantasy authors, Ken Follett’s World Without End, and plenty more. Enjoy!

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

Books are time capsules. They often reflect the era in which they were written. If Tolkien were to compose The Lord of the Rings today, would it be different? Maybe not the core messages, but the setting and characters might have subtle 2015 traits vs. the 1930’s and 40’s. Hobbits shaped a world far outside Middle Earth. It’s become an almost tangible piece of civilization, still pervasive over 60 years later. Tolkien’s an outstanding example, but far from alone. Take Harry Potter. The boy wizard turned non-readers into bibliophiles and put adults in the children’s section of Barnes and Nobel. Everyone knows Harry. It’s been almost 20 years since The Philosopher’s Stone was first published yet it’s the gift that keeps on giving; an upcoming stage play, a spin-off film franchise, bonus publications by Rowling through the online interface Pottermore, etc. Fans are just as jazzed as ever (myself included). Where we’d be without Harry is hard to envision. Personally, I think the explosion of young adult readerships would be a bit paler. Cash-cows like Twilight, The Hunger Games, Divergent, Unwind, and The Maze Runner would exist but, without flying on Harry’s coattails (or Nimbus 2000), be far less lucrative.

If you were sent on a magical quest which other 4 fantasy authors would you take with you?

1) David Clement-Davies. I went with him on a Kickstarter quest once, but perhaps one day we can do something more exciting. He too writes about dragons. David has one of those lyrical voices caught between prose and poetry, and he can play it out through animals. He weaves dark worlds and darker psychologies. There’d be no journey’s end without him. He’d know the magic, but more importantly, the enemy’s next move.

2) Clare Bell. First, she’s a stone’s throw from where I currently live, so I wouldn’t have to travel much out of my way. Second, she’s a biologist, sustainability advocate, and an animal fiction writer—in other words, who I want to be when I ‘grow up.’ Together, we’d go on a paleontological dig for prehistoric felines.

3) Brian Jacques. If anyone knew warriors, it was Brian. He also had a knack for describing mouth-watering feasts. He’d be in charge of swords and snacks.

4) Patricia C. Wrede. She knows dragons as well as quests, but more importantly, she knows humor. On a magic journey, I’d need someone to keep my spirits up. Patricia’s a bucket of laughs and lemon-water (read Dealing with Dragons for clarity).

What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

The only reboot I know well is the The Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire. The books were dense, but clever enough to warrant multiple readings. They work because they pay homage to the source material, but not at the expense of the story or characters. They can exist on their own without relying on constantly winking at the reader. I can’t stand that. It’s like a bad movie with no creativity, using celebrity cameos to garner box-office success. I can’t think of many books relying on such crappy hand-tricks, but that’s mostly because I avoid reboots. Still, good-retellings are out there. I hope to find them.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you chose to do?

I’m a biologist! Writing doesn’t pay the bills (and for a long time, neither did biology). I’m currently working on the water crisis in California, but I hope to get back into wildlife ecology in the next few years. For my master’s I studied coyote diet and how it varies between season and location in the San Joaquin Valley. Coyotes have a bad rep but are extraordinarily important to human-modified ecosystems. If I could devote myself to preserving North American predators (and biodiversity in general), I’d be pleased as punch! As much as I love fantasy, nothing is more astonishing than the world we already live in. It’s more than worthy of our curiosity and exploration.

In this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?

To be honest, I hate advertising myself. I don’t mind other people doing it, but from me, it comes off vain and needy. I go through a cold sweat before putting anything up on Facebook or Twitter. I spent fifteen years keeping my manuscript a secret. Now when I hear my dragon’s name on another’s tongue, I have a little flip-out (like they’ve just read my mind). I’m slowly getting better, but it’s an adjustment. What I find difficult is telling strangers that I’ve made something worth looking into, but having no idea if that’s true. If I’m reaching a Watership Down fan, then yes, they should read my book. If they like teen-paranormal romance, they might hate it. Finding my target audience is challenging because animal-fiction is going through a dormant stage, at least for older readers. But this inspires me to write something new and peddle The Waters of Nyra when I can.

BakerTheWatersOfNyraVol2If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

Caris from World Without End (Ken Follett) and Alexandra from O Pioneers! (Willa Cather) would be on either side of me. Though separated in time (1300’s vs the early 20th century), they are young people struggling for their dream career, fighting the oppressions of their sex, heritage, and social standing. Hell-bent on a singular source of happiness, Caris and Alexandra abandon the niceties of comfort and deeper relationships (romantic or otherwise) which wait on the fringes of their ambition. Life begets choices. As a millennial who graduated just in time for the economic recession, I can identify. I’ve been running a race and not quite getting ‘there,’ leaving much of what I love on the road. It’s a timeless battle, and one to which billions can relate.

Beyond these two would be Theo Decker from The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt). In literature, we too often see characters who play their best cards in spite of bad hands. Theo is dealt bad cards and then cheats. Yet we root for him. He’s a good person, even when he’s swindling, even when he’s using, even when he’s betraying his friends. How can we possibly love him? Because, like Caris and Alexandra, he is us. He screws up. Badly. But he learns. His ethical 180’s are slow and arduous, but life is like that. I followed him through hundreds of pages and it still wasn’t enough. I want to know what he got up to after the final paragraph.

Across from Theo sits Morgra from The Sight (although as a wolf, she might need special accommodations). Morgra is one of the great villains of literature, although few have heard of her. The best baddies aren’t baddies, or at least they didn’t start out that way. Some are borne from injustice or trauma. Morgra is no exception, however, whether she was transformed by circumstance or an innate hostility is never answered, not by the heroes, not by her. She’s the ultimate enigma. We hear her thoughts in a few chapters but she’s still impossible to decipher. I love characters like that, with self-belief that could either be true or entirely fabricated. At teatime, I’d take one last stab at trying to figure her out.

And finally, at the head of the table, would be Jean Valjean of Les Miserables. He is one of those rare characters who experiences his ethical turnaround at the beginning of the story, not three-quarters through. As readers and creators, it’s easy to forget that not all journeys twist at the ‘climactic battle.’ Valjean defies the formula. His story is about the after.  The generosity of people is often overlooked, especially since the selfless rarely wave their flags. Valjean would be the guest of honor because he would never ask for it, and serve as a reminder that the story doesn’t end with wisdom. Rather, it begins again.

Which favorite fantasy worlds would you like to visit and what would you do there?

Not gonna lie: Harry Potter. No elaboration necessary. You’ve read it. We all have. There’s a wonderful quote by Ms. Rowling: “All these people saying they never got their Hogwarts letter: you got the letter. You went to Hogwarts. We were all there together. Of course it happened inside your head, but why on earth should that mean it wasn’t real?” I went to Hogwarts with friends and strangers and look forward to dozens of visits.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

That I fell in love with? The Grand Escape by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Sometime in early elementary school I was pushed (kicking and screaming) away from picture books toward intermediate-reader novels. None of them starred animals. As a misanthropic seven-year old, I started boycotting stories and turned to informative non-fiction. In doing so I became extremely learned in zoology. I begrudge nothing, as this may have resulted in my career in ecology. But it wasn’t until I discovered The Grand Escape, which stars cats, that I realized some authors were writing strictly-textual animal fiction. From there I hopped to Brian Jacques’ Redwall, Kenneth Oppel’s Silverwing, and really didn’t look back until I discovered historical fiction in my 20’s. More ‘mature’ animal fiction waned in popularity some ten years ago, thus getting The Waters of Nyra to the surface has been tricky. So I’m grateful to older readers who haven’t turned their noses up at talking dragons. The kids have been great, too!

You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along? Will there be a tasty libation involved?

I’d take my own brainchild, Nyra, who has a knack for evading death. This is partially because she has a lot of help. But in spite of personal trepidation and more self-doubt than any eleven year old should have, she’s moderately clever and resourceful. I’m neither fast thinking nor thrill-seeking, so I’d have to strap myself to someone much more tenacious: her. A tasty libation? I’d settle for root beer, but Nyra (being a dragon) would prefer cool water from Fitzer’s Reservoir.

BakerTheWatersOfNyraVol1Book Blurb for The Waters of Nyra, Volume 1:

Never an ordinary dragon, Nyra grew up forbidden to breathe fire or fly. Like her mother before her, she has only known a life of enslavement, held in thrall by mountain dragons, which need Nyra’s ripening wings to secure hunting for the future.

But at the cusp of her first flying lesson, new rumors whisper through the herd. Mother pursues friendships in forbidden places, blurring the once succinct enemy line. In a whirlwind of realization, Nyra uncovers a secret in plain sight, one thought unknown to her enslavers, and one putting her at the focal point of rebellion should it come into play.

And come it does, but through a terrible accident, killing the slaves’ last chance of escape. To survive, Nyra must conquer the sharp-ended lies cutting her future to ribbons and the war threading in their wake.

BakerTheWatersOfNyraVol2Book Blurb for The Waters of Nyra, Volume II:

After braving the ocean, Nyra finds herself incarcerated on the other side of the world. The would-be saviors are in the midst of civil war, and her presence enflames their rivalry. Caught by the Sorja herd, Nyra is held prisoner with Olieve; a Royal as garrulous as she is blind, neither friend nor foe, but essential to the young dragon’s escape. Yet even escape has little promise, as the opposing Raklisall herd has a poisonous outlook on Agrings, so potent it reawakens an old scandal of superstition and murder.

At the crux of deceit, scorn, and prejudice, Nyra must unearth new weapons in her natural repertoire and learn the identity of a mysterious hero. Only then can she return home, and at long last free her downtrodden kin.

Places to Find Kelly Michelles Baker

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Youtube

Vlog

Amazon

 

Book Giveaway & Interview: Geoff Camphire, Author of the Charlie Dead Series

CamphireCharlieDead&SoCalledZombie ApocalpseEveryone, please welcome Geoff Camphire, author of the humorous zombie Charlie Dead series! We discourse on zombie movies, what a zombie obstacle course would entail, what zombies symbolize in modern society, and plenty more. Also, don’t miss out on the paperback giveaway (US only please) – scroll to the end for details on that.

If you could be an extra on a zombie movie or TV series, what would it be?

Getting shot in the forehead with a crossbow on “The Walking Dead” would be pretty darn cool. I’d make a great zombie. I’m almost lifelike. Almost.

How does it feel, I wonder, to be a treated like a monster? In my CHARLIE DEAD trilogy (‪http://tinyurl.com/peqqlls), teenager Charlie Dunlap, newly infected with the zombie virus, fears he’s about to find out. These young-adult sci-fi novels explore life among the undead in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian America. I hope people enjoy it as much as shows like “iZombie” and “The Walking Dead.”

What’s the most interesting gross fact you know?

If punctured, the human heart can squirt blood more than 30 feet. Which can make it hard to catch it in your mouth.

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death, would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

Definitely a supernatural creature. Specifically, a zombie. Even more specifically, it would be Wendell Reed, the main zombie character in my CHARLIE DEAD series.

Charlie is a teenager trying to avoid becoming a zombie, and Wendell, for a variety of reasons, tries to help him. In doing so, Wendell risks being utterly destroyed himself.

Of course, for a zombie, this is as close to “certain death” as one comes. After writing about Wendell for years, I’ve grown quite fond of the big, undead lug. So, would I save him if I had to choose someone to rescue? I suppose — but, fortunately, as an author, I can do whatever I want!

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

One year, when I was a kid, “The Exorcist” aired on network TV for the first time on Halloween. It was an edited version, but still pretty scary. I remember coming home from trick-or-treating, planting myself on the carpet in front of the tube in our basement game room, and gobbling candy bars alone in the dark. It was like an out-of-body experience.

At one point, a commercial came on — and suddenly I became aware of myself. Bathed in the glow of the TV screen. Scared halfway out of my mind. And grinning like a madman. Looking back, I understand now what a pivotal moment that was.

CamphireCharlieDead&TheSeedsOfZombieChaosHow does modern pop culture influence your work? Do modern cultural references date a piece or add touchstones for the reader?

Well, I grew up in Pittsburgh, which really was ground zero for the explosion of zombie movies that’s given the world its modern vision of the living dead. I’ve never shaken the infection — or the hunger to spread the zombie virus.

Of course, as an adult now, I experience pop culture a little differently. After enjoying the “Harry Potter” and “Hunger Games” books along with my kids, I started wondering why young-adult zombie literature didn’t offer a series of comparable quality. So I wrote my own.

People today are fascinated with zombies — and for good reason. The planet is swarming with mortal dangers, existential threats and systemic efforts to take over our lives. We’re all afraid of being gobbled up, turned into zombies. Mindless zombies and the walking dead invite us to tackle the hard questions of free will and what it means to be really alive. The real stumper isn’t “How do we kill zombies?” but “How to do we live with the reality of zombies among us?”

And I want my post-apocalyptic world to be familiar, but not too much. Without dropping a lot of references to things like specific products or movies, I try to paint a picture of people as they live today, struggling and striving, often unsuccessfully, to make their world normal again. Turns out, that’s hard to do when there are zombies everywhere.

Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?

How important is reality in my fiction? I’m not sure that reality is particularly important in my reality. I write about zombies, after all.

That said, I don’t feel like art is obligated to be absolutely faithful to all the mundane facets of real life. Sure, fiction is most entertaining when it feels somehow plausible — when characters’ motivations make sense, when the words coming out of their mouths sound like things they’d say, and when events unfold within the rules of a reality established by the story. So reality is important. But it’s the reality I create that matters. And that reality isn’t filled with paragraphs punctuated by trips to the toilet.

Over the years, are the changes in society reflected in today’s villains and heroes?

Our heroes have stayed mostly the same over time. They’ve always had to overcome obstacles, externally and internally. That’s what makes them heroes. And they’re important, sure. But if I’m being honest, I am much more interested in our villains — specifically, our monsters — and what they say about us.

Creepy as it might sound, I take inspiration from the simmering panic I hear in the voices of ordinary people. When you ask people about their fears, what do they talk about? Faceless enemies, terror groups, existential threats. A growing sense of freedom being taken away. Outsize control exerted by governmental, religious and economic forces. And the desperation to somehow escape becoming just another one of society’s dead-eyed drones.

That’s why we’re drawn to tales of zombies. Most zombie stories focus on the fight-or-flight response to attack by the unliving. But in real life, there’s no escape. You certainly can’t avoid death. Even before that, there are forms of “zombification” that find you, no matter what. You can never completely get away from the drudgery of work, the limits placed on your free choice by society, and — maybe most important — the tendency of people to treat each other as lesser-than, inhuman monsters.

We’re all running from the zombie plague, and we’re trying to figure out what it means to really be alive. So I wanted to write about the ways we learn to live, hopefully, in a reality that’s always is and always will be overrun with zombies.

CamphireCharlieDead&TheSpoilesOfZombieCombatIf you were sent on a survival quest which other 4 zombie fiction authors would you take with you?

Richard Matheson, Max Brooks, Robert Kirkman and Seth Grahme-Smith. Why? Realistically speaking, I don’t think I’m going to last long on any “survival quest.” I’m going to be one of the first to go down. So, I figure, I might as well enjoy some scintillating conversation with innovative intellects before I become somebody’s lunch.

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

This question really is not fair, because I feel like I’m being set up to self-promote. But I’m taking the bait. Naturally I feel like my CHARLIE DEAD books would make the most amazing video game ever. Personally, I’d want to be Charlie. But others might choose to be characters like the undead Emma Fletcher, buddy Sam Curtis, or the zombified secret agent Wendell Reed.

Then the good guys face off against the bad guys. And not just rabid zombies. The villains are legion — including the loony zealots of Orthodox Life Church, the ruthless opportunists of Nolegys Corporation, and the jackbooted thugs of the Community Health Enforcement Watch, or CHEW. The “Zombie Combat” tournaments in the video game could be just as wild as those featured in the books, where normals and zombies go head to head. And heads do roll

What do you do when you are not writing?

When I’m not writing zombie fiction, I’m a husband, a father, a freelance journalist, and a communications guru who runs a public awareness campaign reaching over 50 million people a year with information and resources about science education. Also I watch zombie movies. Lots and lots of zombie movies.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

Aside from slender, Dr. Seuss-style children’s books, the first real book I remember reading by myself was “A Wrinkle in Time.” I was in elementary school, and I can remember being blown away by the bizarre combination of supernatural fantasy and science-fiction, the careening adventure and high drama, the wrenching emotion, and — maybe most — the characters I wanted to know better. What a storyteller L’Engle was! What a story!

You have to run a zombie obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)? Will there be a tasty libation involved?

Merlot. I think a simple red would pair best with my friend Gavin, who is catastrophically clumsy. Gavin would make excellent zombie bait, I think. Outrunning him would provide me with my escape. And since red wine goes with red meat, I might be tempted to share some with the zombies feasting on Gavin. Then again, I just might save the bottle for myself. I do like to have a drink while I’m enjoying a show. Buh-bye, Gavin!

CamphireCharlieDead&SoCalledZombie ApocalpseBook Blurb for Charlie Dead & the So-Called Zombie Apocalypse:

Zombies, zombies, zombies! How does it feel to be one of the walking dead? Hunted? Not free? Never allowed to live the life you choose? Charlie Dunlap, newly infected with the zombie virus, fears he is about to find out.

Charlie doesn’t want to become one of the mindless corpses at Norwood High School, where his few friends include the zombified Emma Fletcher. In this post-apocalyptic Armageddon, undead hordes are part of the horror of daily life.

Just as Charlie is losing hope, though, a mysterious government agent appears at the door, raising questions about the boy’s late mother. How was the vanished scientist connected to the origin of the virus? Why was this terrible plague unleashed on the world? And who is now targeting zombies for persecution?

Charlie, recruited to aid in the investigation, faces each new adventure with a dose of gallows humor and fading hope for a cure. But Charlie knows there’s more than his own fate on the line. At stake is the power to control the whole human race.

Will Charlie survive? Who can he trust? In a world at war with the living dead, it’s not always easy to tell who the real monsters are.

From author Geoff Camphire comes this high-flying, pulse-pounding zombie novel series, a new kind of dystopian science fiction. “CHARLIE DEAD and the So-Called Zombie Apocalypse” is Book 1 of the acclaimed CHARLIE DEAD series.

Places to Find Geoff Camphire & his Charlie Dead series

The CHARLIE DEAD books are available as paperbacks and ebooks on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/peqqlls. Go online to check out the first installment — “CHARLIE DEAD & the So-Called Zombie Apocalypse” — and click “Look Inside” in the upper left corner to read the first chapter. You can “like” the Charlie Dead Book Series on Facebook and follow @Geoff_Camphire on Twitter for news and updates. And learn about CHARLIE DEAD and more by author Geoff Camphire at www.geoffcamphire.com. Also, catch him on GoodReads.

GIVEAWAY!!!

Geoff Camphire is pleased to offer one free full set of CHARLIE DEAD paperbacks — Books 1, 2 & 3 — to the first U.S. resident who, after this Q&A appears online, emails him at geoffcamphire@yahoo.com with his or her favorite quotation from the first installment, “CHARLIE DEAD & the So-Called Zombie Apocalypse.” Join the zombie feast! Bon appetit!

Electric Blues by Shaun O. McCoy

McCoyElectricBluesWhere I Got It: Review Copy

Narrator: Gabrielle Olexa

Publisher: Sisyphean Publications (2013)

Length: 1 hour 13 minutes

Author’s Page

 

Arty is an obsolete model of personal assistant droid, specifically model PA3025. Employment has become increasingly difficult to come by as newer and faster models become available. So, he’s on the government unemployment which means he has a case worker, Knickers. And Knickers has a subtle plan to get depressed Arty back into the swing of things.

I stepped into this story not expecting too much. I figured it would be a light-hearted lunch listen. What I got instead is so much more. Most of the story is told through the droid’s eyes and it was very interesting to watch Arty go from an initial wish to switch off (or terminate) to a place where he felt useful and needed.

Knickers uses a parable to get some points across to Arty. Extra points to the author for mentioning the old computer game Galaga, by the way. In fact, the entire story, Electric Blues, is a parable for modern human life and anyone who feels obsolete. This is done in a very clever way. I was sucked into the story and the characters long before I saw what the author was doing.

Another crucial character is the aging Madeline. Arty takes up volunteer work, per Knickers direction, while he continues to search for a job. Madeline is his first stop and in her daft way she takes him on as a personal assistant. She doesn’t have much interest in modern tech and being able to interface with such tech through the very accessible and people-friendly Arty makes her life much easier. Through this relationship, Arty grows as a character.

Now toss in snippets of a court case that attempts to define sentient life and you have plenty to think about. These little snippets were well placed throughout the story providing little breaks between scenes and raising some pretty interesting questions about what constitutes legal, rights-holding life.

All in all, I was very impressed with this story. I hope that McCoy makes more of his work available in audiobook format!

I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the narrator (via the GoodReads Audiobooks group) in exchange for an honest review.

Narration:  At first I wasn’t sure why the author picked a female narrator for this book as nearly all of it is told through Arty’s voice. But then I realized that Arty is an it, not a he or she, so it didn’t particularly matter. Gabrielle Olexa did a fine job sounding like a stiff PA3025. She managed to keep a monotone voice for PA Arty throughout the tale. She had a variety of voices for the other characters and imbued them with emotion when needed. My favorite voice was old lady Madeline.

What I Liked:  Raises some interesting questions about the definition of life; I was sucked into the story before I realized it was a parable; extra points for bring up Galaga; great to seen Arty work through his believes on being obsolete and come to realize that he is still useful; very satisfying end.

What I Disliked:  Nothing – I really enjoyed this story.