Interview: James Maxey, Author of Bad Wizard

MaxeyGreatshadowHeldigFolks, it is with great pleasure that I have James Maxey visiting today. I have enjoyed several of his books such as Nobody Gets the Girl, Hush, and Greatshadow. His latest book, Bad Wizard, is also pretty freaking awesome. Interviewing him was truly entertaining for me and I expect you shall be entertained as well. 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?

You only have to turn on the TV to see that fantasy is permeating our culture. I mean, ABC has an oxymoronic “fantasy reality” show called The Quest. It’s jocks and models running around pretending to be paladins and talking about how to fight dragons. High fantasy has definitely moved out of the geeky, nerdy niche it used to occupy into the mainstream. That said, I think there’s a distinction between fantasy fiction shaping popular culture and enduring fantasy beliefs still deeply rooted in our core culture. The elves and goblins and witches of past eras have morphed into the Men-in-Black and ETs and psychic advisers of the modern age.

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

This is a terrific question because, as it happens, I’ve been going back in recent years and reading a lot of classic novels that I first experienced as a child or teenager. Sometimes, my differing perspective now that I’m 50 years old lets me see the true power of a work that was perhaps lost on me when I was younger. Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea meant nothing to me when I was 15. Now, I get it.

That said, I sometimes wish I could travel back in time and regain the sense of wonder I had when I first experienced some of my favorite works. For instance, in my late teens/early 20s, when I first read Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, I thought it was the best comic book ever written. When I reread it recently, though, I was surprised at how simplistic and one dimensional it seemed. The reliance on talking heads on TVs to deliver page after page of backstory was kind of grating. This isn’t to say that The Dark Knight Returns wasn’t an absolutely amazing and groundbreaking comic in it’s time. It’s just that part of the power was it’s freshness, the fact it hadn’t been done before. But after three decades of people imitating it, it’s lost it’s power to amaze me on a reread.

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

There are obviously traits a hero might have possessed at one time that would render him creepy now. Randal McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was an idealized free spirit who couldn’t be made to conform to a corrupt society. But, reading the book today, the horrible misogyny of the character makes it difficult to root for him. And if you ever go back and read the original Tarzan books, the underlying racism will leave you cringing. On the flip side, at one point it was acceptable to hint that a character was homosexual if you wanted to make him seem villainous. Now, you’d be more likely to see homosexuality presented as a sympathetic trait.

Of course, the biggest change is probably in the proportion of male and female protagonists. Female protagonists were once restricted to romances and children’s books. Today, a book like The Hunger Games can give us a complex female action hero who has a role to play in the world other than falling in love.

MaxeyHushWafflesWhat biographies of the creators of your favorite genres do you want to  read? Are there lesser known creators that still need a biography?

Hmm… I honestly don’t read that much about other writers and creators. Until this moment, I don’t think I’ve even noticed it as a gap in my education. I’ve always engaged with authors through their books. Their personal histories, politics, etc., don’t hold much interest for me.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

Bill collector. Ug, that was just horrible, hounding people for money. It doesn’t compare well with writing. It doesn’t compare well with anything. Back when I was a bill collector, I stopped at a fast food restaurant and as I was leaving an old man in dirty clothes came up to me carrying bags of fast food and asked if he could get a ride back to his house, since he’d just picked up dinner for his kids. I said sure. When he got in my car, he said he was happy to be in air conditioning, that the sun had been killing him all day. I asked what he did for a living and he said he swept parking lots. He asked me my job, and I told him I was a bill collector. He wrinkled his nose, shook his head, and said, “I would never do that.”

MaxeyBitterwoodWho/what are your non-writer influences?

Music plays a huge part in fueling my creativity. The Mountain Goats, Rasputina, The Dresden Dolls, The Decemberists… I’ve always got a soundtrack running through my head. Keen readers will be able to spot song titles and other references woven into my books and stories.

My biggest non-writer influence, if I may be a bit pretentious, is reality. Seriously, I absorb every odd little fact I can find about biology, geology, archeology, history, politics, food, art… you name it. I’ve read books devoted to the history of salt, and came away with a greater understanding of the world. For me, all good fiction–especially fantasy fiction–has to be built on a foundation of knowing as much as possible about the real world.

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

I have the same answer for both! The greatest example ever of classics adapted and given new life has to be Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The worst example ever of something adapted and utterly mangled has to be the movie version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

MaxeyWitchbreakerIf you could go enjoy a meal in a fictional world, where would that be, and what would you eat?

Easy! I’d go to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe and nibble on whatever food came by to offer a taste.

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required  reading? As passing discussion?

I could do an entire semester on H. G. Wells. The Invisible Man, The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, and The Island of Dr. Moreau are amazing books that stand up well to modern literary tastes. Wells was an amazing visionary, and even though he was working from a lot of flawed assumptions (for instance, thinking that Mars could support life), you still see his fundamental grasp of how the world works. It’s not a cop-out that microbes defeat the Martians in The War of the Worlds. He understood that humans weren’t the true pinnacle of earthly life–single celled organisms are the earth’s true dominant life form.

MaxeyDragonforgeCare to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either  one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were  gushing over another author’s work?

So, back in 2012, I was invited by Orson Scott Card to help teach one of his writing classes. Of course I said yes. As it happened, my novel Greatshadow had just come out, and I thought, hmm, I’ll take him a copy and maybe he’ll read it and say something nice about it eventually. But, when we got together, he’d not only already read the book, he’d already given it a glowing review online! That was a big thrill.

I would say that one of by biggest geek out fanboy moments came when I met John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats. He’d just done a concert and I was leaving the venue and, suddenly, there he was, just standing on the sidewalk out front. I went up and told him how much I’d enjoyed the show, asked him a few questions about some of his older albums, and left feeling a bit magical. I felt as if I’d just run into a unicorn or something.

MaxeyDragonseedWhat is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

Oh lord. From the age of 11 to sometime last week, my cousin Tony and I could argue endless about who was stronger, Thor or the Hulk, and sometimes take the argument to another level by bringing in Superman.

But, by far, the geekiest thing I’d ever heard discussed was in the hall at ConCarolina’s. A group of geeks were discussing their favorite podcasts, and one of the guys said that such and such show was his favorite World of Warcraft podcast. This caught my attention and I said, “Favorite implies you listen to more than one. Just how many World of Warcraft podcasts can there be?” Dozens, I was informed. But most weeks he only listened to three. I consider myself a pretty big geek, but, damn, that’s hardcore.

Places to Stalk James Maxey

Goodreads

The Prophet and The Dragon blog

Jawbone of an Ass blog

Amazon

 

Return of the Dragon Riders by Kristian Alva

AlvaRetunOfTheDragonRidersWhy I Read It: Book 1 was good and I wanted to see how the story continued.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the publisher (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: Fantasy adventures fans who like a note of seriousness in their fiction.

Narrator: Adam Chase

Publisher: Passkey Publications DBA Defiant Press (2013)

Length: 7 hours 44 minutes

Series: Book 2 Dragon Stone Saga

Author’s Page

Book 2 picks up right where Book 1 left off. Elias is pulled up into a new world. one where great things are expected of him because of this prophesy. Pf course, this makes him a major target for the evil Vosper and his allies. The few remaining dragon riders have one last refuge, the city of Parthos. Elias and his new friends face many foes in this book and sometimes Elias isn’t too sure who his friends are.

While we have yet to meet the evil Vosper, we do get to see plenty of his badguy handy work, from the past, and in Elias’s present. More info about Elias’s parentage is revealed to the readers. Thorin, Elias’s halfling friend from Book 1, is still around providing advice, support, and the occasional comedic relief. The dragon riders themselves area mixed bag, some being extremely serious all the time. Others have a little fun. Some new magic users are recruited and some young dragons are looking to make a match with human riders.

There’s plenty of action in this novel and it is well-paced with comedic moments and serious moments. I like that the point of view shifts around and we get to spend time in different heads. Elias is a well-meaning teen who wants to think the best of nearly everyone. Many of the other characters are not so trusting. In fact, there is a hidden traitor among them, which added suspense to the story.

Overall, this was a very good follow up to Book 1. I am very much looking forward to Book 3.

Narration:  Chase did a great job once again. He has distinct male and female voices and does accents. He also had several opportunities to portray strong emotions in this book, which he did very well.

What I Liked:  Elias is growing up; plenty of action; Thorin is a true friend; the suspense of the hidden traitor; their task is not done and we are set up perfectly for the next book.

What I Disliked:  I wasn’t so keen about the cover to the paperbook, but I LOVE the cover to the audiobook.

What Others Think:

Peace Love Books

Bookworm Family

Dreams of a Dark Warrior by Kresley Cole

ColeDreamsOfDarkWarriorWhy I Read It: Valkyries, Berserkers, & vampires – how could I turn that down?

Where I Got It: Review copy via the publisher (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: If you enjoy the possessive streak in your lover, you might be OK with this.

Narrator: Robert Petkoff

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2014)

Length: 14 hours 53 minutes

Series: Book 11 Immortals After Dark

Author’s Page

Note: This book works fine as a stand alone even though it is Book 11 in the series.

The book started with a young Valkyrie, Regin the Radiant, beating up some viking Berserkers.  That was pretty amusing and I was enjoying the give and take (both verbal and with blades). The lead Berserker, Aidan, recognizes she is an Immortal, but a rather young one who is still frail and can be injured. He take her under his wing and then proclaims that she will be his wife once she is full grown. In the meantime, she is to wait out her days at his mom’s house while he fights 200 battles in Odin’s name to earn the right to immortality himself. Regin, while young, isn’t really down with that.

So, 9 years later, they meet up again. She’s full immortal, totally able to take care of herself, and busy kicking vampire ass in the Dark Ages of northern Europe. Aidan hasn’t been victorious in 200 battles yet, but he is racking up the points. Regin has to admit that she is plenty curious about coupling in general and in specific, coupling with Aidan. Aidan is all good with this since he claimed Regin for his bride 9 years ago and hasn’t changed his mind on that one bit. In fact, his possessiveness towards Regin came on really strong.

Too strong.

And I had to start this book twice because the main masculine love interest was creeping me out in a rapey sort of way. His possessiveness leaves no room for Regin’s say in the matter and she’s a big part of the equation. This possessive streak is a main theme throughout the book, even with Aidan reincarnated into the modern covert ops soldier we come to know as Declan Chase. I want to believe that the author was setting us up early with a character flaw that Aidan/Declan has to overcome in order to be triumphant, but it didn’t work for me.

First, let me tell you about the characters, the plot, the action, the sex. Then I will come back to this creepy possessive trait. Regin is a lot of fun, always ready with the quip, and a blade if necessary. She starts off strong with plenty of punches, claw marks, and tossing of men twice her size. While she keeps a lot of her spunk throughout the book, she diminishes in her ability to fight and I think this was done to show how strong Aidan/Declan the Berserker is. Declan himself is a troubled man. Unknown to him, his violent dreams are memories of his past lives and past fights and past deaths. He gets lost in it all as a teen and takes up drugs. But then one night a horrible fate falls upon his family and himself, from which he barely survives. And that is where he takes up with this super secret underground military-like organization that hunts down, captures, interrogates, experiments on, and kills any and all immortals. I really enjoyed Declan’s backstory and got into his character, mostly.

The book is fast-paced with plenty of interesting side characters. My favorite was Nix, a Valkyrie gifted with foresight. But that gift also makes her a little crazy. She has a pet bat named Bertie. Then there are several characters we meet in the immortal prison such as the good farm boy Thad, a wicked ancient vampire, a London faerie, and more. They were all enjoyable. Several of the sex scenes were very hot and involved full consent. The partners were into each other and giving and taking equally.

But then we have the love story between Declan and Regin. Declan has a violent streak. At first, he just sees Regin as another immortal, like all the other immortals he has hunted, captured, tortured, and killed. So his initial violence towards Regin didn’t bother me. It was part of the story. And Regin is faced with this horrible decision to either awaken his memories of his past and trigger the curse that has killed each of his reincarnations upon full memory retrieval, or ride it out, try to escape, and hopefully never run into Declan again.

This is my biggest issue with the book. Aidan/Declan has a big possessive streak that goes way beyond being tolerable. It’s not sexy. There are multiple times in this book where Regin flat out refuses sexual contact and Aidan/Declan presses on anyway, once with full penetration. Now Regin does get around to enjoying herself and whatever sexual act is forced upon her, but there is this whole initial lack of consent. Folks, full consent is sexy. Aidan/Declan can declare all he wants how wonderful Regin is, how he will always protect her and cherish her, but the forced sex really negates all that sexy male protectiveness.

So, for me, while this book had a lot going for it, but the overly possessive nature of the main male love interest killed this book for me.

The Narration: Robert Petkoff did an excellent job. He had a variety of accents to pull off as well as male and female voices. He didn’t hesitate with the sex scenes either. In fact, he may very well have orgasmed once or twice while narrating the steamiest scenes. His male and female voices were distinct. Oh, and there was this one character, La Dorada, for which he had to pull off this awful creepy witch sound – he raised the hairs on the back of my neck!

What I Liked: Plenty of action; lots of fight scenes; Regin is full of flippant remarks; Nix and Bertie the bat; some of the sex scenes were quite good; lots of supernatural beings shoved into close contact and forced to play nice.

What I Disliked: Some of the sex scenes initially start out with forced sexual contact; Aidan/Declan’s super possessive nature really wore on me; I never fully grasped the title for the book and how it relates to the story.

What Others Think:

Love Vampires

All About Romance

Fiction Vixen

Lilith’s Paranormal Romance Blog

I’m Lovin’ Books

A Bookworm’s Haven

Interview & Giveaway: Martha Reynolds, Author of Best Seller

ReynoldsBestSellerFolks, please welcome Martha Reynolds to the blog today. We chat about every day inspiration, self-promotion, tasty food, famous folks, and much more. If you’re interested in the giveaway, scroll to end. Enjoy!

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

I try to limit my use of pop culture references when I write a story set in present time. It’s not that I don’t want it to be relevant, but I’ve read books with too much name-dropping, and yes, it dates that book (and out-dates it, too). At the same time, some things can’t be ignored – like the prevalence of cell phones and the way people interact with each other.

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?

The important thing is not to lose the reader with these mundane occurrences! Life as it happens can be vital to a story, and if there’s meaning in what is routine, then I’ll weave it into the plot. If it helps the reader to understand the character, then it’s important.

Who are your non-writer influences?

I’m influenced by everything around me, so it could be the woman in front of me in the grocery checkout line, or the guy who serves me my coffee at Starbucks. When I’m out among people, I tune in for inspiration – it’s all around me.

ReynoldsChocolateForBreakfastWith the modern popularity to ebooks, a book is no longer limited to a specific genre shelf. It is now quite easy to label place an ebook in multiple genres (i.e. YA, Fantasy, Horror). How do you see this affecting readers? Have you been inadvertently lured outside your reading comfort zone?

Ultimately, I think it’s beneficial to readers. I mean, who wants to read only thrillers or only chick lit? And yes, I’ve read books that have multiple genres (paranormal romance, Christian fantasy) – if the book is well written and compelling, I’m on board.

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?

I still don’t like self-promotion. Maybe it’s the way I was raised, but I’m uncomfortable with it (even though I know I write good books – there, see? I did it – a little). But it’s necessary. So when a reader sends me a message or posts a kind review, I connect. It’s important.

The most challenging side of self-promotion is being different. Standing out among the thousands of other books – finding the line or blurb or title that will make a new reader click.

ReynoldsBitsOfBrokenGlassWhat does your Writer’s Den look like? Neat and tidy or creative mess? Can you write anywhere or do you need to be holed up in your author cave?

Well, I’m not going to take a picture, so you can guess. Not neat. Piles of books – on the side shelf, on the floor. I’m looking at my thesaurus (even though I use the online version), the Chicago Manual of Style, and a pile of novels I keep meaning to bring to my library or donation bin. I write in a little alcove at the top of the stairs, on a regular desktop computer with a giant monitor (my poor old tired eyes).

If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table?

Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, William Faulkner, and Flannery O’Connor.

What would they order?

Ha! Great question. Okay.
Hemingway would order oysters (with their strong taste of the sea).
Fitzgerald would order a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings, then ignore the food and just drink wine.
Rawlings would most definitely NOT order venison! She’d opt for the vegetarian entrée of ratatouille.
William Faulkner wants salmon croquettes (his favorite food), made with canned pink salmon, crushed Saltines, minced onion, and dill pickle relish. Very 1950s Mississipppi.
And Flannery O’Connor would skip the meal and go straight for dessert – in her case, peppermint chiffon pie.

ReynoldsChoclateFondueCover art can be so important for a book, making or breaking sales. What cover art has caught your eye, that you found stood above other books?

I’m not sure if you want examples, but strong contrast really pops. I’m thinking of The Hunger Games – you know the black background, white lettering, and the gold mockingjay pin on the cover? And Catching Fire and Mockingjay worked also.

Cover art can be tricky. What might work on a traditional hardcover book in a bookstore might be illegible in a thumbnail viewed on a tablet.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I read. So many books, not enough time! I take walks for some quiet time, where my mind is open to new ideas and inspiration. And, of course, the house doesn’t clean itself. Laundry, cooking, cleaning.

Side characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works? What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?

Oh, let’s see. Ron and Hermione in the Harry Potter series. Sofia in The Color Purple. George Emerson in A Room with a View (and Charlotte Bartlett, too).

In my own novels, Erika Stangl in Chocolate for Breakfast had quite a following (several readers wanted a book just from her point of view). Camille in Bits of Broken Glass, and possibly Andrew in Best Seller.

Synopsis of Best Seller

Set in New England at the time of the American Bicentennial, BEST SELLER is the poignant story of a displaced young woman struggling to figure out who she is within the context of her hometown and the carefully masked dysfunction of her family.

“Everything can be fixed by writing a check.” Words to live by for Robin Fortune’s wealthy father, until he can’t buy her way back into college after she’s expelled for dealing pot. Now he chooses not to speak to her anymore, but that’s just one of the out-of-whack situations Robin’s facing. At nineteen, she feels rudderless, working in a diner by day and sleeping with a buddy from high school by night – all so strange for her because she was always the one with the plan. While her college friends plotted how to ensnare husbands, she plotted a novel, which she scratched out into a series of spiral-bound notebooks she hides in the closet. But now, there’s nothing. No vision, no future, no point. In fact, the only thing she feels she has to look forward to is that her favorite author, Maryana Capture, is paying a visit to the local Thousand Words bookstore. Robin surmises that if she can convince Maryana to help her get her novel published, she’ll finally get herself back on track. Except that life never takes a straight path in this intensely satisfying coming-of-age novel.

ReynoldsBittersweetChocolateAuthor Bio

Martha Reynolds ended an accomplished career as a fraud investigator and began writing full time in 2011. She is the author of five novels, including the award-winning Chocolate for Breakfast (her debut novel), Chocolate Fondue, Bittersweet Chocolate, and the Amazon #1 bestseller Bits of Broken Glass. Best Seller is her latest release. Her essays have appeared in Magnificat magazine.

She and her husband live in Rhode Island, never far from the ocean.

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The Gathering Storm, Part I

JordanGatheringStormBannerWelcome everyone to Book 12 of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. You can find the schedule to The Gathering Storm over HERE. Everyone is welcome to join us!

This week,  Sue at Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers is the host. You can catch Eivind, our WoT encyclopedia, in the comments.  Stop by Liese’sl at Musings on Fantasia. There’s plenty of cool non-spoilery fan art.

Once again, sorry for posting late. The last four weeks have been super intense for me and I was a vendor at this big weekend show and just simply came back exhausted physically and socially.

This week, we covered the Prologue-Chapter 6. Spoilers run rampant for this section and all previous books below!

1) Rand has sent a message to Tuon via a released damane, but it seems that it might be some time before she hears of his invitation. Do you think that this delay will make a difference? Will the Seanchan be too distracted by the newly arrived Trolloc hordes and Rodel Ituralde’s army?

No matter how Rand sends a message to Tuon, I still think her connection to Mat will be key in making the much-needed peace. And Rand was an idiot for not taking the Seanchan hierarchy into account. I know he doesn’t have much experience with it, but he does have a lot of experience with various countries/races/beings at this point and could heeded the damane’s words about propriety, etc.

And, yes, I expect the trolocs and Ituralde’s army will slow the Seanchan down a bit. Already, the Seanchan are showing respect for Ituralde’s battlefield prowess.

2) We had only a short glimpse of the Forsaken in this section, but there were some tantalizing hints. Given Graendal’s thoughts about Demandred, where do you think he has made his base of operations? What do you make of Moridin’s issues with his left hand?

I keep looking at Mazrim Taim. I always picture him in black, rubbing his hands together, and snickering quietly to himself. He has an army, of sorts. But I also stumbled across an unmarked spoiler months ago that makes me think that Taim is not Demandred. My brain dead cells aren’t coming up with another possbility, though knowing the Forsaken, it will be someone incompetent and lacking team player skills.

In Book 12, we had some hints that Moridin and Rand were some how connected. Now they each have fidgety left hands. I fear we may be up for a Harry Potter moment at the end of the book, where Rand has to actually die in order to kill the last vestiges of the evil Moridin/Dark One. But then Rand will be resurrected for that happy ending.

3) The Prophet finally met his end, but not before we got to spend a little time inside his highly disturbing mind. What do you make of his vision of the Dragon? Do you think that his death will remove the Dragonsworn as an organized force?

Oh, I forget what Masema was rambling on about before Faile shoved something pointy into him. I was a little surprised that Masema was taken out so easily, with very little lead up to it. I was not surprised that he believed that Perrin had to be taken out.

Since the majority of the Dragonsworn were forced into this mad army, I expect we won’t see a major force of them again. There may be a few that feel the need to keep the ‘dream’ alive and try to build some messed up church with very strict rules in Rand’s name later. And there may also be several thousand folks who feel Rand owes them something for the evil done in his name. I would be more worried about those folks.

4) We see Egwene go through some serious changes this week, as she realizes why the Aiel laugh at pain. Do you think that she is correct to think that Elaida’s rule would come to an end soon even without her own efforts? What do you make of the severe disruptions that are occurring in Tar Valon: are they worse than the ones we are seeing elsewhere?

I think Egwene’s demeanor and thoughtful comments are pushing things along. Yes, given time, Elaida would dig her own grave. But there is this looming time limit with the end of the world scheduled to happen in a few months. So someone has to move things along in order to have time to tack the Tower back together long enough to do some badassery fighting against evil…instead of innocents and other well-meaning folks.

That whole scene with the dungeon cell going all gooey was extremely disturbing! Still, I don’t think this is any worse than the ghost city that swallowed part of the caravan that was with the circus party a few books back.

5) Poor Aviendha is off counting tiny seeds whilst running across country. Can you offer any suggestions about what she has done wrong in the eyes of the Wise Ones?

I think this IS the final test. Yes, I believe it is fuckery by the Wise Ones to test Aviendha’s patience, mettle, and problem solving skills. Have you ever done that blanket test with your dogs? You take a blanket or towel, toss it over your standing dog, covering their head and see how long it takes them to get out of it. It’s suppose to be an intelligence test. Most of my dogs can toss it off within 5-20 seconds. But I did have one dog who would simply lie down and go to sleep.

I think all this BS from the Wise Ones is the blanket and they are counting to see how long it takes Aviendha to get out from under it.

6) We finally touch base with Gawyn in his efforts to disrupt the rebel siege. Can you think of anything that might make him finally see sense and join the rebel cause?

Well, I think if Gawyn saw Egwene’s breasts while she ordered him to join her side, he would do just that. ;)

But that isn’t likely to happen in the waking world any time soon. So I think he needs to see the bad guys do some truly bad guy things, like killing kids, squelching puppies, peeing in churches, etc. Gawyn has a head on his shoulders, but he also has a very loyal heart. So he needs something to slap him upside the head to break that loyalty.

7) Cadsuane and a few other Sisters are trying to get information out of Semirhage. Do you think they have any hope at all of succeeding, or will we have to endure many more creepy stories about how she can do truly diabolical things to peoples’ bodies?

I believe Cadsuane is correct. Physical torture would not undo Semirhage. She would just catalog her own reactions, noting what was of interest. And the silly psychological torture they are running isn’t going to do it either. So I look forward to seeing what Cadsuane comes up with to break Semirhage. What would break Cadsuane? Perhaps the threat of infinite boredom. I wonder if there is some large ter’angreal that would hold someone in stasis with no input from the world and yet leave their mind to spin in circles? Hmmm…Stasis Box anyone?

Squatch being cute.

Squatch being cute.

Other Tidbits:

Did I hear that right? Ituralde’s first love was a soft-handed prince with a jeweled sword grip? Ituralde is turning out to be one of my favorite side characters. I could go kick this bejeweled prince in the arse for him.

Can’t Rand use the Power to make a flaming left hand, or one out of glass or mist? Perhaps that takes more concentration than the poor lad has at the moment.

Faile swears her folks to secrecy over killing Masema. Oh, yeah, right. Like keeping secrets from Perrin has worked out so great so far!

May I slap Rand? He doesn’t want Semirhage tortured because she has a vagina? If the Dark One can pull the gender swap, surely the most powerful Aes Sedai can come up with something along the same lines!

Revenge of the Simians by Thomas Weston

WestonRevengeOfSimiansWhy I Read It: I enjoy stories about animals evolving to the point where they can collectively compete with humanity for supremacy.

Where I Got It: Review copy via Audiobook Monthly (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: If you have been searching for a grittier version of Planet of the Apes or The Rats of NIMH, check this out.

Narrator: David Dietz

Publisher: Thomas Weston (2014)

Length: 5 hours 55 minutes

Author’s Page

Francine and Wayne work at a medical research facility. Their jobs pay the bills, keep them fed, and suck their souls away. They are the ones to work closely with the experimental & experimented on animals – feeding them, cleaning up after them, and strapping them down for further tests and injections. Meanwhile, the upper crust of the research facility loan out their militarized experiments to the military, who in turn, run covert ops that bring about political chaos in chosen cities and countries. If that alone were not enough to keep the readers entertained, Thomas Weston takes the story a step farther when the simians start thinking for themselves, organizing, and challenging the authority of humans.

This story started off strong, with Fran and Wayne sympathetic to the apes they worked with but also feeling they were trapped in their current jobs due to financial burdens. Plus we had little snippets of the various military uses the apes were being put to. Then there are also the apes themselves, sporting names like Ishtar, Marduk, and Emond. They have character, desires, motivations. We also have some immediate bad guys that are great to hate on, such as some of the lead research scientists who are sadists when it comes to their simian experiments.

Even though the story is speckled throughout with various conspiracy theories and political commentaries, I was able to set those aside for the story. Many of the characters stayed true to their motivations throughout the story, except for Francine and Wayne. They went from sympathetic to highly selfish to chaotic evil and the transitions weren’t particularly clear. While there are a fair number of female characters in this story, by and large, they are being led around by the males, instead of making independent decisions and actions. There is a notable exception late in the story with Francine, but the whole scenario stretched the creditability of the story (if I go into detail, I give way part of the ending, so I won’t).

While I really like the plot idea of apes taking over the world, I felt that the main research facility sported too few of the simians to get the job done. Perhaps if the author had expanded the numbers in some plausible way, this would have made the final outcome of the novel plausible. Also, the apes use a kind of biowarfare towards the end and the idea that the humans wouldn’t catch on in time to control or even outright stop such an outbreak was not believable.

Overall, it is short enough to be a fun, gritty read for those who enjoy this niche science fiction. However, if you are looking for a great piece of literature to hold up and say, ‘Hey, it really could happen!’, this is not it. If you are easily insulted, then do note that the main characters sooner or later hit on nearly every major group that you can insult – woman, homosexual, democrat, republican, etc. I think this was done to reflect the small-minded nature of many of the characters and are not necessarily a reflection of the author’s views on the world. I don’t know if you will be cheering for anyone by the end of the book, but it was the same for me with Brave New World, one of my all time favorite classics.

The Narration: David Dietz did a good job of narrating this tale. He had to come up with a variety of ape voices, in both male and female, while keeping them all distinct. I am sure the ape voices put a lasting bur into Dietz’s voice.

What I Liked: Basic plot; book cover for Kindle edition; good set up for story; decent ending in general.

What I Disliked: Some of the characters changed too quickly without enough of a reason given; the women were definitely secondary to the male characters; the plot made some big stretches towards the end so that the story was unbelievable in certain places; the audiobook cover (very dull).

Interview: Fred Staff, Author of The Bass Reeves Series

StaffYoungBassReevesDear readers, clap your eyes together and on the screen to welcome author Fred Staff to the blog. His books, Young Bass Reeves and Bass Reeves, Lawman, are about the first Black US Marshal west of the Mississippi. Join us as we chat about famous authors, Bolivia, history, and more.

Are minions/sidekicks just throwaway devices in a tale? Can they become more? Do they need to become more?

I hope that every character in my stories are there for a purpose.  In fact, there are always at least three people in a story that are key elements  My first book ROCHA’S TREASURE OF POTOSI had a terrifically powerful side kick that the protagonist depended on for advice and protection.  There will be a sequel to the Rocha book and his sidekick will be the protagonist in it.

My Bass Reeves Trilogy had so many real and famous people in it that a book could have and/or has been written about them.

SERGEANT GOLDSBY AND THE 10TH CAVALRY is also filled with real people who played an important part in the development of the west.  Its sequel THE OTHER GOLDSBY, CHEROKEE BILL will have many of the same characters, plus some other notorious people from the time.  Most all of my characters have ties with many people who deserve their own story and a large per-cent already have.

Who are your non-writer influences?

Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Abe Lincoln, Gandhi, Now you should ask why and the answer would be that they stood their grounds on things that they thought were right and had the nerve to put forth great effort for what they believed in.

StaffARocha'sTreasureOfPotosiWhich ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

There are too many to list.  I spend most of my reading in research and seldom have the time or energy to just sit down with a specific book and read it from cover to cover.

In my experience, some of the best fiction is based on facts and history. How do you build your research into your fictional works?

I spend nearly as much time in research as I do in writing.  I am an old history teacher and my goal is to expose people to historical events as accurately as possible and at the same time entertain them.   I have written nothing that could not have happened in the time that I was writing about.  I love to write dialog and if an event took place there surely was some communication leading up to it or after it happened. This is where the fictional part comes to play.  No one was there taking notes, so I do my best to try and convey what the people would have said in this situation.

If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

Mark Twain, Robert Service, Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, and John Steinbeck.  I am sure there would be plenty of liquid refreshments.  I would think that some rare beef would be involved and possibly a fish dish.  Capote would probably want to order separately.  I don’t think there would be a vegetarian in the bunch.

StaffBassReevesLawmanIf you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in historical fiction, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank,  several books by Teddy Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, Animal Farm, The Grapes of Wrathpoems by Robert Service, For Whom the Bell Tolls,  To Have and Have Not, The Godfather, All Quiet on the Western Front, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and Of Mice and Men.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Waste my time.  I love good conversation with people that are smarter than me.  I feel that you should never stop learning.  I read and watch the news daily.  I read historical articles.  I live in Bolivia so I like to take in the sights that are so unique to the area.  It is a different world and culture and the exploration of even minor things is very enlightening.  I am now involved in the making of a video about Potosi, Bolivia.  This was the source of a tremendous amount of wealth for the Spanish Empire.  My first book got me into its history.  The video will consist of three approximately 30 minute segments.  The project is designed to be used in the classroom as well as for history lovers.  It will cover The Rich Mountain (El Cerro Rico) or The Mountain That Eats Men, depending on whether you were one of the 8 million killed in the mines or one of the nobles and church leaders who lived the life of luxury provided by the unlimited wealth that flowed from the mountain for over 300 years.  It will cover the over 60 churches that were constructed there in the 15th and 16th century.  We will do an in-depth visit to the mint that produced the legendary amount of silver that could have built a bridge from Chile to Spain   This city was the largest city in the Western Hemisphere and on top of that, is at an elevation of 13,450 feet. The early engineering triumphs here are amazing, yet few know the story.  The project will be a positive source for history, sociology, geography and Spanish classes.  The mine still operates and there is also some danger involved in the making of the video, because we will film inside and there have been recent cave-ins.  I see this as a great adventure as well as my being able to leave something to students that they will never be able to experience.

What are the top 3 historical time periods and locations you would like to visit? 

The Wild West 1865 to 1910.  The Colonial and the Civil War period.  Roman times and Greece. I know that is more than you ask for but as a history teacher there is so much I would really liked to have seen.

Places to Stalk Fred Staff

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