Interview: Louise Turner, Author of Fire and Sword

TurnerFireAndSwordEveryone, please welcome Louise Turner, author of the historical fiction novel Fire and Sword, which is set in the 15th century Scotland. Today we chat about Star Wars, archaeology, engineers, embarrassing moments, and much more! Make sure to check out the book blog tour hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Tours for reviews, giveaways, and more!

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

Oh, that’s a tough one… I’m lucky, I think, in that if really I love a movie or a book or a TV series, I can leave it for a while then go back fresh so it feels like I’m watching it for the first time all over again. But if you wanted me to pick just one, it would have to be Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. When I first saw Star Wars, I was nine years old, too young to appreciate the fact that movies just weren’t made like that, and that its opening sequence was utterly ground-breaking. Years later, watching Jurassic Park gave me a taster of what it would have been like: as I watched the small dinosaurs ‘flock’ past the actors with a tyrannosaurus in hot pursuit, I knew then that I was watching something completely new, a film that was really pushing the boundaries of cinematic technology.

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?

There’s a simple rule. If it clutters up the plot, it ends up on the cutting room floor. But if it’s important, it stays in. For that reason, the travel tends to be abandoned, unless something crucial happens in that time. The toilet breaks? I’ve included one or two! As for the swearing… I leave it in as required, but don’t go overboard for it, partly because I don’t think modern readers appreciate it (I don’t), and partly because once again it slows down and dilutes the dialogue. And I don’t like that.

Whether I perfectly reflect the reality of the past by doing this is, however, an interesting question. There’s a form of combative poetry called ‘flyting’ which was popular at the court of James IV, where the poets tried to fling as many swear words at each other as they could. Did this represent everyday life, or was it something extraordinary? My high-born characters only swear at moments of extreme stress – they would point out that swearing is a mark of someone who has lost control of the situation, and they really wouldn’t want to be seen in such a position of weakness.

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

I don’t really read much in the way of biographies, the only exceptions being those of important historical figures or early antiquarians/archaeologists. Biographies of modern writers and film makers leave me cold… One exception has been Hilary Mantel’s autobiographical memoir Giving up the Ghost which I found fascinating.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been reading a number of ‘classic’ works of historical fiction by the likes of Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. I’ve been finding the prefaces increasingly interesting. – sometimes written by the authors themselves, sometimes written by academics, they offer a refreshing reminder that the experiences of these writers who worked way back in the 1800s weren’t entirely dissimilar from those of us who are pursuing this vocation today.

What nonfiction works have you found useful in building fictional worlds, cultures, and plots?

The list is endless. The importance of background research in recreating a convincing past world cannot be under-estimated. But the books which influenced me most during the writing of Fire & Sword were Norman MacDougall’s James IV, Jenny Wormald’s Court, Kirk and Community: Scotland 1470-1625, and Henrietta Leyser’s Medieval Women, with Stephen Boardman’s Ph.D. thesis on The Politics of the Feud in Late Medieval Scotland also meriting a Very Honourable Mention.

Who are your non-writer influences?

Intellectually, I’ve been shaped by so-called ‘post-processualist’ school of archaeology which formed the basis of my studies at university. This was influenced in turn by the sociology of Giddens and Bourdieu. I think the best way of describing this way of thinking is to take the view that, rather than seeing individuals as shaped by the physical and cultural environment in which they live, they are both constrained by this environment, while at the same time able to challenge its parameters and in due course transform this environment (again, in both the physical and the cultural sense). This thinking has been vital to the way in which I approach historical fiction – my characters are constrained by events, while at the same time, they do their best to actively influence these events and alter circumstances to their benefit. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t – the end result should mirror what actually happened in history.

But I suppose that overall my greatest influence has to have been my mother. She was an avid reader, a fan of science fiction and historical fiction, and also an extremely busy woman – she had a full time job as a Head of Department in Modern Languages at a comprehensive school, as well as being actively involved in numerous choirs and amateur operatic societies until her hectic schedule was cruelly curtailed by multiple schlerosis. She read and critiqued a very early draft of Fire & Sword but sadly passed away before it achieved publication – I’m sure she’d have been over the moon to hold it in her hand as a proper, published book.

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

A couple of years ago, my answer would have been very different, because these days I’m doing well at playing ‘catch-up!’

During the last few years I’ve read Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad, Suetonius’ Twelve Caesers, and Thomas More’s Utopia, so I’m not as hopelessly ill-read as I was! But I need to read more of the (translated!!) Greek and Roman classics by the like of Plutarch and Xenephon, and closer to home, I really must read Bower’s Scotichronicon….

Please don’t be too impressed by this learned list – I can’t read any of them in Latin or Greek, or even in Middle Scots…

If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 historical figures, who would you invite to the table?

Ah, what a question!

I think I’d opt for a round of claret (or equivalent) with the following historical personages: let’s have mathematician and philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria for starters (hoorah for the philosophical sisterhood!), then add King James IV of Scots and Scots-born engineer Thomas Telford to the mix for good measure (Tam Telford did a spot of archaeology at Wroxeter in Shropshire once upon a time, which makes him an even more appropriate choice). I’m going to include archaeologist Harriet Boyd Hawes to the group, then for my final choice I’ll include John, 1st Lord Sempill (John Sempill of Ellestoun, featured in my novel), because I think he’d really enjoy the discussion and debate.

James IV would probably steal the show, flirting with Hypatia and discussing engineering with Thomas Telford (who would no doubt offer, for a healthy fee, to redesign the entire roads network of mainland Scotland and build King James a fine set of naval dockyards and canals for good measure), while Harriet Boyd Hawes and myself could talk archaeology and watch chaos unfold all around us…

Care 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?

Eek! Time for an embarrassing confession…

Okay, I think this is best described as an anti-fangirl moment, for reasons which will become clear in a moment. Way back in the late 1980s, I was awarded first prize in the Glasgow Herald New Writing in Science Fiction short story competition for a story I wrote called Busman’s Holiday. The prize was presented on my 20th birthday, by a woman science fiction writer I’d never heard of called C J Cherryh.

It was only afterwards that I gave Ms Cherryh’s books a try. And I was hooked. Seriously hooked. I thought her science fiction was awesome, and yes, I don’t deny it. In the end, reading her work influenced the way I approached my writing, and in particular the way I write historical fiction.

I still have a photo that was taken that night – to this day, I don’t know whether to be terribly excited or terribly proud, or terribly ashamed about the events of that evening. Because she congratulated me! She toasted my success!! And I didn’t even have any clue about just how amazing that was until much, much later in my life.

There. Is that awkward enough for you??? I’m cringing at the recollection even now…

Places to Stalk Louise Turner

Website

Goodreads

Fire and Sword by Louise Turner

TurnerFireAndSwordWhy I Read It: Scottish history plus lush cover art – how could I say no?

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

Who I Recommend This To: For fans of Scottish history, and fans of complicated, fascinating characters.

Publisher: Hadley Rille Books (2013)

Length: 454 pages

Author’s Page

John Semphill finds himself in a world of hurt upon awakening on a bloody battlefield in the summer of 1488, Scotland. King James III went to over with his own son, Prince James. John’s father, Thomas Semphill, insisted they fight for the King; this pitted them against one of their decades-old foe, Lord Montgomerie. And King James and his armies have lost. Thomas Semphill is dead and John’s prospects of being a knight in good standing are looking slim indeed.

I really enjoyed the writing of this novel – the grittiness of the battlefields, of life in general, really stuck with me. I felt that this book was well researched (though I know extremely little about Scottish history, so take my opinion with a grain of salt). From the food to clothes to family names, I feel like I got the 15th century Scottish experience in reading this book. I especially liked that Turner included a note about family names, personal names, and designations at the very beginning. So many characters had the same first name as this was truly the style at the time. But I felt she made the reading easy by referring to characters by their designations (i.e. John of Ellestoun) when clarity was needed.

The characters themselves were complex. John starts off as a rather unsure teenager trying to please his father, along with his mother and sister. But once his father is dead, he is the man of the family now and all eyes turn to him to keep the family line alive and well. Indeed, John had to do some quick growing up in this novel.

Lord Montgomerie, who initially comes off as a proficient warrior and something of a brute becomes more complex as the story unfolds. While initially an enemy of John (and Montgomerie did fight for the winning side in the battle that killed John’s father), the two become allies of a sort. The women, Helen, Margaret, and Mary (among others) bring their own views to the events of the story and aren’t just window dressing.

Because I know so little of Scottish history, I did find myself lost at times in the big picture. On one hand, I wanted to pop over to Wikipedia to look up some of these historical figures to get a better sense of what was going on, but I didn’t want to spoil the larger plotline for myself. So, I had to muddle through a few areas due to my lack of knowledge.

What I Liked: Love the cover art!; great complicated characters; excellent character growth; educational.

What I Disliked: This is a minor thing – but due to my limited knowledge of Scottish history, I sometimes didn’t understand the larger view politics and happenings.

What Others Think:

Check out the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for more reviews, interviews, and more!

The Gathering Storm, Part VII

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, Eivind, our WoT encyclopedia, is our host and can be found in the comments. Make sure to swing by Liesel’s at Musings on Fantasia  for cool fan art.  And Sue at Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers has intellect and teensy violins.

This week, we covered the Chapters 42-END. Spoilers run rampant for this section and all previous books below!

1.  Egwene appears very reluctant to forgive Siuan and Gawyn for having rescued her from Tar Valon.  Do you think she went overboard?  Has Siuan lost her status forever?  What sort of thing might it take for Egwene and Gawyn to finally get together as they should?

I might be in the minority here, but I feel that Egwene has been a highhanded with many people who have supported her these many months – like all the Salidar Aes Sedai, including Siuan. So, let’s start with Gawyn and Siuan – they had to make a split second decision in the middle of a battle. They saw the Seanchan forces were pulling out but they had no idea if they would regroup and attack again. Plus we have all those assassins running around and Siuan and Gawyn had no way to know how few there actually were. Lastly, they themselves were unwanted invaders in the Tower, so they had to leave anyway and was there anyone standing around looking competent and trustworthy that they could have handed Egwene off to? No. So, yeah, Egwene is being just a touch overly sensitive to this.

Next, she is welcomed into the Tower with open arms, asked to be the new Amyrlin. She makes her loyal ‘rebel’ Aes Sedai wait outside in a courtyard, the ceremony is had without them. She does give a nice harsh berating to the Tower Aes Sedai, but she does this in private. She then gives the Salidar Aes Sedai a very public (and less severe) berating. I thought this was rather rude and put the ‘rebels’ in a lesser standing than the Tower Aes Sedai.

Egwene still has plenty to learn about people in general and leading in specific.

I am not sure what it will take for Gawyn and Egwene to get back to the kiss-kiss state. Perhaps he will take a very bad wound and she will have to save his life and will realize in that moment what a dumbass she has been and want to spend the rest of her life with him and make babies and hav e a pet goat. It would suck if he took that nearly mortal injury from Rand but with the unfounded vengeance he has going for him, he might just force Rand into forcefully defending himself.

2.  The Black Ajah is purged and all its members are now either dead or missing.  Do you agree with Egwene’s plan, or would you have waited until after the reunification, to get all of them at once? Would you have liked to see the hunters in the White Tower (Saerin et al) play a larger role?

I think she did the best she could in that situation. After all, it was known by the Tower that Verin had passed away and that news would travel swiftly to the Salidar Aes Sedai. Not all but some of those Black would know that Verin was Black and the simple fact that she expired in Egwene’s room would cause them to worry (if they have 10 or more brain cells to rub together). Some of those would probably tell others, etc. I suspect that is why some of them disappeared as swiftly as they did.

Saerin and crew had their time in the limelight discovering a handful of the Black. But they also fucked up in forcing some of the Aes Sedai to swear oaths of obedience to them specifically. Naughty! Obviously, they weren’t ready to hold such power and the hunt had to come out into the open.

3.  The Aes Sedai are reunited, eight books after the split, with no more bloodshed.  What do you think of everything?  Do you agree with the decision to take Silviana as a keeper, and to distribute the blame?  What will now happen with the Red?  And just how epic were those speeches?

I already answered part of this question above (in Q. 1). I think Egwene was not equal in spreading the blame and publicly berating the Salidar Aes Sedai (after the private berating of the Tower fools) was not OK.

I really like that Egwene insisted that the stole and Amyrlin seat (throne?) have all the colors represented before she was crowned (raised?). And yes, I like that Silviana is her Keeper. She was steadfast and fair throughout her dealings with Egwene. She carried out her role and took no joy in beating Egwene.

I am not sure even Egwene knows exactly what (and how) she will do with the Reds at this point. She gave a very nice little speech about how their role will change but that they will be very important, etc. She sounded very convincing, but I know she has had plenty on her mind; so this might have been a nice bluff to keep them from fidgeting while she figures out what to do with them. I am not sure what she will have them do.

While I disliked her public negative remarks of the Aes Sedai, I did like her speech about becoming a force of Light to be reckoned with and how the Aes Sedai will be remembered as a unified force that fought for the good at the Last Battle instead of a bunch of bickering women who couldn’t prioritize.

4.  Were you happy to see Hurin again?  Do you think he was happy to see Rand?  What can be done now, from Rand’s side, to fix this problem with the Borderlanders?

It was nice to see Hurin and to see that his nose was still working. I think at first he was happy to see Rand but then when he realized how much Rand had changed, and how Rand did not return the affection, he was a bit disturbed.

Honestly, I think Rand messed up but I get why. I don’t think the Borderlanders are up to nefarious deeds nor are they trying to dodge their duties leading up to the Last Battle. But Rand has been tricked and shoved and attacked and forcefully Bonded and betrayed and he also has a few too many extra voices in his head. So, yeah the Borderlanders probably picked the location to protect themselves, but it could also be a set up for a trap. With Nynaeve and Cadsuane shoving him around, on top of everything else, I could see why this was just too much for him to trust the Borderlanders.

5.  Rand has a surprise meeting with Tam, for the first time since book one, and it does not go well!  Even though Rand was insane, how much blame rests with Cadsuane and Nynaeve here?

This was a great scene – so much going on and so many emotions yanked out of me! I really felt for Tam, and for Rand. They’ve always had a great relationship, Tam having raised him as his own in a loving, caring way. Rand returning that affection and respect. To see them so awkward with each and Rand needing to keep a barrier in place, calling his father ‘Tam’ instead of ‘dad’, etc. So sad to see. And yet, they were connecting, talking, sharing. At least, until Tam mentioned Cadsuane’s name.

I have to say that Cadsuane and Nynaeve have a large chunk of the blame to carry in this one. I think Min’s viewing needs to be reevaluated as I am pretty sure close inspection/reflection will show that both Rand and Cadsuane have something to teach the other in order for the world to go on spinning after the Last Battle. Cadsuane and Nynaeve can’t control everything and they certainly can’t control Rand.

6.  We got some more hints about the nature of Callandor, and now that the male Choedan Kal is also destroyed, they are more relevant than ever.  Does anyone want to try guessing what it’s for?

The sword Callandor is like Rand’s penis and the two female Channelers needed to wield it correctly are like Elayne and Aviendha. Min will be directing things and providing guidance, being the most experienced of the 4.

Or Callandor is simply a powerful weapon that needs 3 Channelers to get the most out of. Min, the brains in the bunch, will be the one to figure out how this all works and will convince Rand to give it a try.

7.  Rand travels to Dragonmount and has his epiphany.  Is he now sane for good?  What do you think he will be like when we see him again?  Was this what Cadsuane needed to teach him?  Feel free to speculate on the nature of the Lews Therin voice.

I have hopes that he is no sane for good. Of course he will have moments when he is sad, tired, stressed, questioning his actions, etc. But unless one of his Bonded ladies dies, I think he will be good to go for the rest of the series.

I think Rand will want to make some amends when next we see him. He’ll want to apologize to Tam and truly sit down and have a smoke and ale with him. He will probably want to let Nynaeve know that he has been insensitive about Lan’s ginormous task. I hope he tells some dirty limericks to Cadsuane and leaves her mystified. He’ll apologize to Min and then make sweet, crazy loud sex with her. Egwene has said in the past that Rand will bow to the Amyrlin Seat, so I am sure that will have to get worked out and the new, laid back (in comparison) Rand might not mind at all.

I am thinking that Rand probably still has to learn something from Cadsuane. Perhaps something to do with Callandor? Or maybe it is that he has to learn to trust a female Channeler, and not just any Channeler, but one he feels used him, lied to him, put his life at risk, etc.

Eivind shared several theories about Lews Therin several books back. The theory that stands out most to me is that Lews was Rand’s way of segregating his crazy thoughts and giving them a persona he could argue with and lock away from time to time. However, this idea that Lews was truly all in Rand’s head doesn’t explain the knowledge on past events & people Lews made available to Rand.

Squatch being cute.

Squatch being cute.

Other Tidbits:

Shiriam was beheaded! And why such an execution? I totally agree with executing them, but since they have so many ways of killing them, why that method? And what will they do with the distraught (and the Darkfriendish) Warders?

When Cadsuane bundled Tam up in air and lifted him, I loved his response. He called her a bully, and she is. While she released him, I hope she takes his comments to heart and adjusts her manner. Through out this series, this has probably been the biggest aspect about the Aes Sedai that I have found infuriating – so many of them are bullies!

 

Interview: Fred Wolinsky, Audiobook Narrator & Producer

FredWolinskyVoice Over HeadshotEveryone, please welcome Fred Wolinsky. He’s an Audible.com approved narrator, an actor, a puppeteer, a sign language interpreter, and all-around entertainer! Today we chat about audiobooks, fantastical worlds and fictional people, the differences of live performance versus narration, and much more. Enjoy!

What fictional world would you like to visit?

Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated by fictional worlds — Neverland, Oz, Wonderland, and others. That is one of the reasons I really enjoyed narrating “The Doorways Trilogy” by Tim O’Rourke.  His fictional world of Endra borrows from many others, and sets up its own intriguing rules.  If I had to pick just one fictional world to visit and explore, it would probably be Narnia.

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

In thinking about that, there are actually 2 very different book series that I would like to experience again – “The Tales of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis, and “Tales of the City” by Armistead Maupin. I read them both when I was very young, and would probably have a whole new perspective now, with more life experience.  Narnia presented the wonder and innocence of childhood shattered by evil, and saved by magic and faith in the good.  That series touched me in the soul, as well as my sense of adventure.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, “Tales of the City” presented a large cast of quirky, flawed, and lovable people in real world San Francisco.  It presented its own kind of innocence of young people growing up through a changing time.  That series touched my heart and my sensibilities, and I would like to meet those people again, looking back in time.

I am hoping that some of the books that I narrate, like “The Doorways Trilogy” will become experiences that others will want to experience again.  One of the benefits of narrating audiobooks is that people can experience the stories in a whole different media, providing a new perspective.  After hearing my narration of his book, Tim O’Rourke responded that “The book really comes to life and even though I wrote it, I got caught up in the story as if coming across it for the first time.” Readers can have that same experience and listen to books even if they have already read them.

O'RourkeLeagueOfDoorwaysWhat are some of your favorite aspects of self-promotion and what are some of the least favorite parts of self-promotion?

My favorite parts are meeting lots of interesting people — even if only virtually — and getting the support of blogs like yours.  I love getting feedback and hearing people’s views.  I also like writing and designing promotional material.  The worst part is the frustration of limited market reach, and the inability to break through a glass ceiling of visibility.

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

I have been fortunate to have jobs that I enjoyed throughout my life, so there is no “worst” job.  All have their simple moments, and their difficulties, but the difficulties present the challenges that make them exciting.  The most challenging job I have ever had is that of a Sign Language Interpreter.  The mental challenges of handling 2 languages simultaneously, each with very different structures and thought processes, plus dealing with each individual’s linguistic styles and accents, makes it extremely intensive work.  Experts have called the process of interpreting the most challenging cognitive process that man is capable of.

Narrating has its challenges as well.  Each book has a different style, tone, and “voice,” plus each character should have a unique voice and personality.  It is similar to sign language interpreting, in that acting and narrating is also a form of interpreting — interpreting the author’s thoughts and words, and delivering that message to the listener.  The mental challenges of switching instantly between character voices and narrative can be comparable to interpreting.  However, interpreting is done live, in real time.  Narrating, on the other hand, has the luxury of being able to stop and start and then edit it together to appear live without having to actually do it within the confines of real time.

LongoInsanityTalesWhat does your Narrator’s Den look like? Neat and tidy or creative mess?

That depends on the eye of the beholder.  I have my various piles around my desk that I feel are neatly arranged, and I know just where everything is.  However nobody else would be able to make sense of it.  So, it could probably be described as a tidy mess.

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

I am a tea drinker, so I would love to have tea with Merlin, Gandalf, Aslan, Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot — all wizards of either magic or of the mind.

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

I have only been doing audiobook narration for a little over a year now, and most contact with fans are virtual.  Even though I have 20 books available through Audible.com at the moment, and several more in production, I have not had much direct interaction with fans.  However, as a puppeteer, I had much more direct contact.  Perhaps the most awkward moment was when someone saw me at a conference and just gushed over how much they loved my shows.  As they talked about it, I realized that it was not one of my shows they were talking about, but actually someone else’s show.  I tried to explain that to the fan, but she insisted that it was my show, and suggested that perhaps I just “forgot.” (Having done each show dozens or perhaps hundreds of times, I know which are and are not my own shows, but this fan had a different opinion.).   So, rather than argue with a fan, and especially since she loved the work, I just smiled and thanked her for her praise.

PhillipsHallsOfHorrorYou are also a puppeteer. How does the real live audience experience compare with recording a narration that will be enjoyed by an audience at a later date?

I have been a puppeteer and an actor — both performing before a live audience.  While there are many similarities to book narration, there are also many differences.

They are similar in that they both require bringing characters and words to life, and interpreting an author’s story.  They both require extensive use of the voice, including character voices and accents, sometimes many different character voices in one performance.

One of the differences is that with narration, the entire illusion must be created with the voice.  In acting and puppetry, there is a visual aspect which is just as important if not more so.  Another difference is the amount of preparation.  Since acting and puppetry are presented before a live audience, extensive rehearsal is needed to do it in real time, without the ability to stop and correct anything.  It is performed over and over again, each performance being essentially the same, but always slightly different than the others.  Narrating involves very little prep, but you have the luxury of stopping and starting, correcting, and retaking until each component is just right — then it is frozen in the recording.  And a final difference is that with live performance, you get immediate feedback from the live audience — hearing their responses — and can adjust your performance accordingly.  With narration, you have to imagine and anticipate the audience response, and do not have the pleasure of actually hearing it happen.  You do, however, get feedback from authors and listeners. In some ways the artistic rewards (the pleasures of creating the art) last longer in narration, but the ego rewards (the praise from fans) are more hidden and delayed.

PhillipsApocalypseTangoAs a sign language interpreter, do you occasionally find an animated person who talks with lots of gestures inadvertently signing off-beat things? Due to this skill, have you modified any of your own gestures?

Actually no.  In both spoken and signed languages, gestures and language complement each other, but are different.  Sign language is an actual language.  Just like spoken languages, it also incorporates gestures, but the gestures themselves enhance rather than replace the words. I have never seen anyone doing a gesture that inadvertently translates into an unexpected lexical sign.  However, I have experienced times where I am trying to express myself verbally to a hearing person, and find that my thoughts are more clearly expressed with sign language.  I then automatically start signing without thinking about it, but quickly catch myself and remind myself that the person I am talking with does not understand sign language, and I have to figure out how to express myself verbally instead.

TaylorToLightTheDragon'sFireFinally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I currently have 20 books available on Audible.com.  My most recently completed projects have been the first 2 books of the paranormal fantasy adventure, “The Doorways Trilogy” by Tim O’Rourke.  You recently reviewed book 1: Doorways.  Book 2 (League of Doorways) is also currently available.  The third book (The Queen of Doorways) will not be out until sometime the first half of 2015.

In production, and coming out soon will be Insanity Tales, a collection of stories of murder, mayhem and madness by David Daniel, Stacy Longo, Vlad V., Ursula Wong, and Dale T. Phillips, with an introduction by the New York Times Best-selling author Jonathan Maberry.  Also coming out soon is the paranormal fantasy romance, To Light the Dragon’s Fire by Margaret Taylor.  I have several other books in the production queue as well that I am working on.

For the latest information about my books, to listen to a wide range of audio samples, and to see a short video of me narrating an excerpt from Doorways, check out my website at http://fredwolinsky.weebly.com/

Places to find Fred Wolinsky

Website

Audible.com

Kyrathaba Rising by William Bryan Miller

MillerKyrathabaRisingWhy I Read It: Post-apocalyptic world, aliens, and virtual reality – what’s not to like?

Where I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: For post apocalyptic fans who like a few twists.

Narrator: Christine Padovan

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Length: 7 hours 29 minutes

Series: Book 1 Kyrathaba Chronicles

Author’s Page

Kyrathaba is the name of a virtual reality world. Set in the future by nearly 200 years, humans exist in only subterranean remnants. The Earth suffered a devastating attack from aliens and what few humans are slowly dying out due to radiation poisoning. Sethra, a member of compound A-3, has found a way to enter Kyrathaba, and perhaps stay there indefinitely. Things look grim and Sethra, along with a few close friends, seriously contemplate the possibility that humanity as we know it may not be able to continue in their current form.

The story starts off with Sethra and Byron sharing a morning beverage of U Tea. Since they live in these completely enclosed underground capsules, everything, including their urine, is recycled. I am sure you can figure out what goes into the U Tea. Of course, I was enjoying my own morning cup of tea when I listened to this part of the book. And yes, I stared at my tea suspiciously.

So you can see that I was sucked into the straight-faced humor of the book right away. I enjoyed learning about the characters first, letting their current world unfold around me as Sethra and his friends went through their daily routine. Radiation poisoning is killing them off bit by bit. Even though they continue to reproduce as quickly as they can, attrition may well win out; humans are facing the very real possibility of becoming extinct. Compound A-3 has a regular security force who have a regular schedule. Their food is bland. The medical staff and care is the best they can maintain under such circumstances. And there are robots, which is the cool part in all this gloom.

While Sethra looks deeper into the possibility of long-term virtual reality habitation, Earth has a bigger issue. There’s an alien ship in orbit and it’s sole purpose is to monitor the remaining humans. I don’t think humanity could stand up to a second alien invasion. Meanwhile, the geoscientists explore drilling further into the Earth to escape the radiation and expand their living quarters. They discover an underground cavern with a clean water source. In exploring the depth and width of the water source, they make a very surprising discovery. I think this was the secondary plot line I enjoyed the most and want to learn more about. So many questions!

Kyrathaba itself is a Dungeons and Dragons kind of world; there’s magic, Orcs, plenty of sharp weapons, and paragon points to be earned. This magical world complimented, rather than contradicting, the science fiction tone of the larger story. I don’t always enjoy scifi and fantasy melding, but in this case it was done very well.  The story had a good mix of characters, both male and female characters having crucial roles to the plot. Plus we had a range of ethnicity and ages. Definite plus!

My one criticism lies in the use of radiation poisoning to be the initial driver of the plot. I did radiological work for several years, dressing in yellow Tyvek, full-face respirator, nasal swabs, etc. To make it very simple, you either have a radiation source emitting radiation or you have radioactive particles that you have ingested or inhaled. For the first, you put shielding between you and it and you should be good. Shielding can be lead, several meters of earth, etc. And compound A-3 had all that in place between it and the surface of the contaminated Earth. The story didn’t really mention the possibility of the population all repeatedly inhaling, imbibing, or ingesting radioactive particles. Basic HEPA filters would take care of this problem and would be the first solution for signs of radiation poisoning. Also, with enough radiation to be causing prolonged radiation sickness over generations, then we would see the electronics failing left, right, and center. Electronics do not hold up well in the glow of radiation. At the best, they get buggy and stay that way. In this tale, we have a lot of cool tech and all of it was working just fine, showing no signs of electronic wear due to prolonged exposure to radiation.

But if I wasn’t such a know it all, the radiation threat would probably work just fine. Over all, I enjoyed the tale and the multiple plot lines. I really want to know what is in that big cavern pool of water! I want to know what happens to Sethra and his friends in the virtual world of Kyrathaba. There are enemies every where it seems, human, alien, and potentially something else. Indeed, there is plenty of worth in this book to propel the reader into the next installment.

The Narration: Padovan did a decent job of narrating. Her characters were each distinct. In fact, she did most of the book with a geek accent which was well suited to many of the characters as they were half raised by their computer implants. Her male voices could use a bit more masculinity, but that is my only negative comment.

What I Liked: Good mix of scifi and fantasy;great character development; multiple plot lines to give the reader much to think on; the ending answered enough questions to be satisfying and left the door open for a sequel.

What I Disliked: The use of radiation poisoning was superficial and doesn’t match up with the science we have on the subject.

What Others Think:

Rob’s Book Blog

Scifi & Fantasy Reviews

Readers’ Favorite

Drawing Dead by Scott Mckenzie

MckenzieDrawingDeadWhy I Read It: Las Vegas and vampires – makes sense to me.

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

Who I Recommend This To: If you enjoy watching or playing poker, then this would be a fun story for you.

Narrator: Alex Hyde-White

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Length: 1 hour 47 minutes

Author’s Page

The story is told using a few flashbacks to bring the reader up to date on how Eddie Nelson got to this deplorable state. A Brit, he and his girlfriend came to Las Vegas for a vacation. He returned home to nurse his blossoming addiction for on-line poker. That on-line addiction grew to playing in live tournaments. Soon, he was playing professionally, and living by himself. Fast forward to present day and Eddie has been on a losing streak for weeks now. He’s out of money, considering who he can call to wrangle a plane ticket home when a sketchy stranger buys him a beer. Raphael wants to stake him in a high-stakes game. If Eddie wins, he gives half his winnings to Raphael. If he loses, then Eddie has to do Raphael a favor and play in a private poker tournament.

This tale started off a little slow for me and I think that is because I don’t play poker and some of the lingo was lost on me. There was a quick run down of game rules and terms at the beginning of the book, but such a list is hard to absorb in audio form. Anyway, the story does pick up with the flashbacks of Eddie spiraling into the poker addiction whirlpool. I really enjoyed watching Eddie go from a winning high to another high to another high and then the bum of a loss, and then another loss, and finally to the point where Raphael finds him.

And I guess I am free to talk about the Las Vegas vampire aspect since there is line about these poker vampires in the book’s description. The vampires don’t show up until about half way through the book. Mckenzie has created this whole underworld society in Vegas for these vampires. Even the taxi drivers know about them; or know enough to not ask questions. This part of the book was the true story, and the gem of the tale. It was for more interesting, suspenseful, and messy. Not everyone makes it out alive.

For much of the book, there are no females. Sure, Eddie had a girlfriend that had one or two lines at one point, but she didn’t play a real role in the story. There is an epilogue to the tale told from a woman’s stand point. It is done well, so one can see that the author is very capable of writing female characters. But it would have been nice to make some of the other players, a dealer, or even a few of the vampires female. We make up 50% of the population (even more as a generation ages because men just don’t last like us ladies) so why not have them make up 25% or more of the characters in a book? But that is my only complaint.

The Narration: The narration started off a bit rough, like I could hear background noises. This was when the basics of poker were being introduced. But once the story started proper, the narration became excellent. So I wonder if that part at the beginning was tacked on as an after thought? Anyway, Hyde-White did a great job with Eddie’s voice, the few accents, and keeping each character distinct. He even had to make a few creepy vampire noises which were done well.

What I Liked: Eddie’s fall into gambling addiction; his high from winning followed by his self-loathing in losing; Raphael and his deal; the second of half of the book and the vampire enforced tournament was great – lots of suspense; the ending.

What I Disliked: Few female characters; the first half had a few slow spots where lots of poker lingo was used to describe a game.

What Others Think:

Col’s Criminal Library

A Pack of Wolves II: Skyfall by Eric S. Brown

BrownPackOfWolvesSkyfallWhy I Read It: Werewolves versus aliens, why not?

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

Who I Recommend This To: If you enjoy heavily armed sexy alien half breeds, check this series out.

Narrator: David Dietz

Publisher: Grand Mal Press (2013)

Length: 1 hour 58 minutes

Series: Book 2 A Pack Of Wolves

Author’s Page

Note: This is Book 2 and I have not listened to Book 1 as I thought it would stand alone. It almost does. The plot is easy to grab on to, but the characters are introduced so quickly and little background is given that I lost track of who was who. So I recommend giving Book 1 a read/listen before venturing into this book.

OK, so we got aliens in mech suits stomping around our fair cities, rounding up humans for unknown uses. Then we have the werewolf pack lead by Zed Farr. His family and their friends are the only ones who can save humanity. There was at least 1 vampire in the mix and a sorcerer (though he might have also been a werewolf who just happens to be trained in the wizardly arts). Plenty of action and weapons make up the plot of this book. Oh, and death. Yes, there is death. In fact, I am not sure there will be a Book 3 in this series.

If I recall correctly, we started with Brian, who seems to have gone off on his own, lone wolfing it. He is gathered back into the family fold to battle the aliens. Zed, who takes on a southern USA hick accent (even though he is far older and can probably mimic any number of world-wide hicks), is the family’s leader. Then we had other players like Jennifer, Brooke, Nathan. But honestly, they were introduced so quickly with little to no background that I didn’t really get a sense of them. Also there is some rivalry between the Blood (trueborn werewolves) and the Turned (or was it Changed? – those that were bit and turned werewolf). One of the short stories gives a little more info on this, but largely it was pretty sketchy.

The action is fun, though the plot is very, very basic – kill the aliens before they kill you and eat you. While an alien or two have 2-4 lines late in the story, we never get any background on them and why they have invaded Earth and what their endgame is. Still, it was a fun lunch break listen. Honestly, it made me think of one of my PC games where I can just run around as a good(ish) guy and smash evil guys.

At the end of this novella, there were 2 short stories. I think they might have been better at the front to give the listener some background to a few of the characters. They were a nice addition to the audio version.

The Narration: David Dietz did a good job with maintaining distinct furry characters, blood suckers turning into mist, aliens in mech suits, and feminine voices. He made this book fun with his action voices – panicked, angry, sad, vengeful, etc.

What I Liked: Reminded me of a PC game; lots of simple action; werewolves, aliens, & a vampire – a fun mix.

What I Disliked: The characters were introduced very fast with little to no background, making it nearly required that the listener/reader give Book 1 a read first.

What Others Think:

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