Bookish Giveaway & Interview: Dean M. Cole, Author of Solitude

Folks, please give a warm welcome to science fiction author Dean M. Cole! We chat about Star Wars, world travel, and how cool a game based on Ready Player One would be. Scroll to the bottom for the giveaway!

If you could be an extra on a TV show or movie, what would it be and what would you be doing?

I’d be a red shirt on an episode of Star Trek, and of course, I would only have one, monosyllabic name … I think Dean would work. I’m sure I would die a very gruesome, horrible death as I was eaten by a blue, velvet-clad monster.

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

Star Wars, of course. However, I imagine you get that one all the time so let’s go with Madea’s Big Happy Family … or not. Seriously, though, I would love to recapture the awe and magic of my first viewing of the original Star Wars.

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?

That’s easy: Ready Player One! I am a huge fan. I’d want to play the main character, Wade Watts. This proposed game would need virtual reality goggles and haptic gloves and suits. Hell, bring on the OASIS already.

As a commercial pilot, you travel quite a bit. Where do you consider home? What’s the furthest you have traveled from home (in distance or culture or socioeconomics)? Would you like to live there?

My wife and I live in Seabrook, Texas, a coastal community between Houston and Galveston. Work travels have taken me as far as Equatorial Guinea in Africa and parts of Asia. At one point, I traveled to Thailand by way of Moscow and Singapore, a trip that took me past the North Pole and across the entire Eurasian continent (that was a very long day). Donna can retire from her job next year, and we plan to begin traveling full-time. So we hope to sell our house and live everywhere—within reason. Our ultimate plan changes from week to week. Our current idea is to airBnB it across the world, but the next time you chat with us, we may be leaning toward using a Class A motorhome to travel across the US and Canada. At other times, we’re leaning toward buying a liveaboard sailboat and hanging out in the Caribbean, although for that last option, I’ll need to sell more books.

What nonfiction works have you found useful in building your science fiction stories?

I love reading articles about cutting edge ideas in physics and science. Almost all of the technologies that I employ in my stories are based on technologies and theories that I’ve read about online.

Who are your favorite hero duos from the pages?

That would be Stu and Fran, two of my favorite characters from Stephen King’s The Stand. Reading that book as a teenager sparked my love for apocalyptic tales.

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?

As a young Army attack helicopter pilot, I had an opportunity to work on the set of a movie filmed at Fort Hood, Texas. It was called Firebirds and starred Nicholas Cage, Sean Young, and Tommy Lee Jones. (If you don’t remember that one, don’t worry you didn’t miss much.) One evening, after the shoot, I attempted to teach Sean Young how to country dance. I think about 20 seconds into the lesson, I inadvertently guided her right into a railing … Fail!

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

Dick and Jane, guess I’m dating myself with that one.

Check out more interviews, guest posts, and reviews on the blog tour.

About Author Dean M. Cole:

Author, world traveler, and combat pilot turned commercial helicopter pilot Dean M. Cole writes from locales as remote as Equatorial Guinea and as romantic as Paris’s Champs-Elysées with his trusty sidekick and beautiful wife, Donna. A combat veteran, he flew Apache Attack Helicopters in the US Army’s First Cavalry Division.

License to kill revoked by the government, he traded in his attack helicopter for one of the transport ilk. When not weaving tales of alien apocalypse and redemption, he spends his days flying terrestrial aliens in IFOs (Identified Flying Objects) known as helicopters. No longer authorized to dispatch aliens he settles for dropping them off at oil rigs around the globe.

On the six months of time off his paying job affords, author, biker, and fellow Sci-Fi geek Dean M. Cole travels with his wife, builds airplanes and custom choppers, and writes his next tale of the apocalypse.

Website ~ GoodReads ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

Synopsis of Solitude:

Earth’s last man discovers that the last woman is stranded alone aboard the International Space Station. If you like action-packed novels, you’ll love the electrifying action in this apocalyptic thriller.
Can humanity’s last two unite?

Separated by the gulf of space, the last man and woman of the human race struggle against astronomical odds to survive and unite.

Army Aviator Vaughn Singleton is a highly intelligent, lazy man. After a last-ditch effort to reignite his failing military career ends horribly, Vaughn becomes the only human left on Earth.

Stranded alone on the International Space Station, Commander Angela Brown watches an odd wave of light sweep across the planet. Over the next weeks and then months, Angela struggles to contact someone on the surface, but as she fights to survive aboard a deteriorating space station, the commander glimpses the dark underpinnings of humanity’s demise.
After months alone, Vaughn discovers there is another. Racing against time, he must cross a land ravaged by the consequences of humankind’s sudden departure.

Can Vaughn find a path to space and back? Can Angela – the only person with clues to the mystery behind humanity’s disappearance – survive until he does?

Audible ~ Amazon ~ Audio Excerpt

About Narrator R. C. Bray:

From an early age Audie, Earphones, and SOVAS Voice Arts Award-winning audiobook narrator R.C. Bray despised reading. Truly hated it with a passion.

And audiobooks? Even worse. Those were for people too lazy to read (not to be confused with those like himself who didn’t want to read to begin with).

R.C. eventually got older and wiser (he was always good-looking) and eschewing his capricious convictions fell head-over-heels with reading. Not just to learn words like “eschew” and “capricious” so he could use them in a bio line, but because someone was actually going to give him money to do it.

Note: R.C.’s gorgeous wife and three beautiful children begged him not to make this his official bio. Clearly he misunderstood

Facebook ~ Twitter

About Narrator Julia Whelan:

Julia Whelan is an actor, writer, and audiobook narrator. She is perhaps most well known for her acting work on ABC’s Once and Again and her award-winning narration of over 200 audiobooks (including Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl). Her debut novel is forthcoming.

After a healthy career as a child actor, Whelan attended Middlebury College and Oxford University, graduating with a degree in English and Creative Writing.

Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram

GIVEAWAY!!!

The giveaway is for a $20 Amazon gift card. Open internationally! Ends July 5th, 2017.
Solitude Giveaway

The Best & Worst of 2016

2016 is finally over! It was a tough year for me, even right up to the end where I caught a nasty holiday bug. I did read a lot of great books last year. According to my Goodreads profile, I read 208 books, nearly 100 less than the year before. I blame my new found love of Netflix bingewatching for that. Here are my favorite 11 books of the year, in no particular order (no counting rereads).

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

BrownRedRising

 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

ClineReadyPlayerOne

Skin Game by Jim Butcher

ButcherSkinGame

Cemetery Lake by Paul Cleave

Tofu will help me hide the bodies.
Tofu will help me hide the bodies.

Anne Manx on Amazonia by Larry Weiner

WeinerAnneManxOnAmazonia

Chapelwood by Cherie Priest

PriestChapelwood

The Green Children by Domino Finn

FinnTheGreenChildren

Dragon Gate by Gary Jonas (Jonathan Shade #3)

JonasDragonGate

Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword by Kiera Gillett

GillettZariaFierceAndTheEnchantedDrakelandSword

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

Chupa being weird.
Chupa being weird.

Cthulhu Armageddon by C. T. Phipps

PhippsCthulhuArmageddon

I did some rereads this past year – The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (yep, from the beginning), Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (I’ve been reading with a great group of on-line friends and we’re up to Book 7 now), Dune by Frank Herbert (just because it’s awesome), Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delaney (I read this in paperback some years ago but now it’s available as an audiobook and it is incredibly well done).

Here are the top 3 books that didn’t do it for me:

Lover Eternal by J. R. Ward

WardLoverEternal

A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

ColeAHungerLikeNoOther

Hair Power by Piers Anthony

AnthonyHairPower

I also joined a romance book club. I’ve never really enjoyed romance novels. I don’t mind if a book has romance in it but the main plot has to be something more than finding true love or getting laid for me to really enjoy it. So, I thought perhaps I was wrong in binning romance books all together and pretty much ignoring them. With that in mind, I joined this lovely group of people and gave the romance genre a real shot at winning my heart. We read several paranormal and urban fantasy romances, a few contemporary romances (some with suspense and one with BDSM), and 1 historical fiction romance. In general, I was underwhelmed. Some of the books did exceed my expectations and for romance novels they were good, but none of them made it into my top 50. Let me slightly amend that. I had the opportunity to host twice, which means I picked the book we read. Both times I picked books I had not previously read and one of them was Darkness Haunts by Susan Ilene. There is no romance in this novel. There’s a spattering of flirting, but that is all. While several people enjoyed it (including me), it does not count as a romance novel. Obviously, I’m not a good host for a romance book club but the group was great about it.

Also here are some of my notable firsts for 2016:

My first Stephen King novel – 11-22-63

King112263

My first Star Wars novel – Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

Guess which side of the Force Chupacabr is on?
Guess which side of the Force Chupacabra is on?

My first Podiobooks audiobook – Marker Stone by Paul J. Joseph

JosephMarkerStone

My first Kurt Vonnegut novel – Cat’s Cradle

VonnegutCatsCradleTofu

As 2016 ends, I am looking forward to a better year in 2017. I spent all of 2016 sick and most of it on bed rest. It took quite some time and many doctors to get diagnosed. I now know that I have CTEPH and in February I will be in San Diego having PTE surgery to hopefully correct the issue. It’s a major surgery and I could be in the hospital recovering for up to 20 days. So if Dab of Darkness goes dark between Ground Hog’s Day and Valentine’s Day, it’s just me laid up in a hospital recovering. Life should get better after that surgery and I’m just really looking forward to being on the other side of it. 24/7 supplemental oxygen makes life rather boring, as I can now attest to.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

ClineReadyPlayerOneWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Wil Wheaton

Publisher: Random House Audio (2011)

Length: 15 hours 46 minutes

Author’s Page

Set in a near future, this book often looks to the past – the glorious 1980s! Wade Watts lives in a dingy, crowded trailer park and goes to virtual high school. His joy in life is found through the OASIS, an on-line universe created by James Halliday & Ogden Morrow. You can discover space aliens and ride unicorns or play for hours in a 1980s arcade. In fact, after Halliday’s death, his final message was released to the world: He had built a quest into the OASIS, one that required the players to uncover secret, hidden clues (or Easter eggs). The prize is his fortune, and the prize is still unclaimed. Now Wade has discovered one of those clues and the hunt for the ultimate prize has heated up again as more competitors join the game.

Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog told me I would love this book and she was right. This was just all kinds of fun. The future is a kind of stagnant, bleak place. Technology only went so far and then it petered out. With most of the world’s fuel supplies used up, people abandoned the countrysides and gathered in ever-increasingly congested cities. The OASIS allows many people to log in from home and go to virtual schools or virtual offices. Yet folks often stay connected to this virtual reality for their entertainment as well; so society is becoming less and less connected to each other in the real world.

Wade is a high schooler I could relate to – not popular with any clique but decent at his grades. I especially liked that in VR high school you can mute anyone but the teacher – so even if some jerk is calling you names, you don’t have to listen to them. His personality comes alive when he logs on to the OASIS and can zip around with his VR friends saving worlds and doing dungeon crawls. It’s not to say that the VR doesn’t have it’s cliques and bullies. If you have the funds, you can spend them in the OASIS on cool equipment for your avatar. So there’s always some amount of ‘fitting in’ strife for Wade to maneuver through. However, he does have stalwart friends in the OASIS, like Aech. They’ve been on dozens of missions together and spent hours and hours discussing every thing. They’ve been on-line friends for years, and that friendship really means something to Wade who has few people in the real world.

Then we have the whole 1980s nostalgia thing going on. Halliday, who built the ultimate prize game into the OASIS, was a big fan of the 1980s. He loved several things about it and built those things into the OASIS here and there. From the music to the arcade games to the TV series to the SFF books of the time, this story is a smorgasbord of 1980s trivia. I was born in 1978, and then I was raised on country music. MTV was not allowed in my house, but I married a man who loves his 80s music, so I have picked up some of it over time. For me, I loved nearly all the 1980s references. Some of the music references I didn’t recognize and some of the Asian anime I haven’t seen, but for the most part it was all recognizable. Sometimes the references would just be a one-liner from a movie and you’d get it if you’ve seen the movie. It made this book one of those stories you can geek out over.

Of course, the over-arching plot is for Wade to find all of Halliday’s Easter eggs, complete the quest, and win the prize. However, it was far more complicated than that. Halliday’s quest has been around for many years now and thousands have been trying to find the next clue and it hasn’t happened. Even Wade has spent many, many hours searching the OASIS for the next scrap of intel on the Easter eggs. But now Wade has a hunch and he, as his avatar Parzival, acts on it and he’s rewarded with the key to the first gate. Of course, once he accomplishes this, his name appears on the public OASIS scoreboard and now everyone is tracking his avatar’s doings. The race is on to complete Halliday’s quest and win the prize!

Along the way, Parzival makes some new on-line friends such as Art3mis, Shoto, and Daito. Aech is along for the ride, being Parzival’s trusty sidekick. I really loved the interactions among these teens. Well, Wade makes some assumptions about their ages and such – it’s almost impossible not to. Pitted against them are Nolan Sorrento and the Sixers. These players are corporate funded and there are thousands of them. They have been paid to hunt for the Easter eggs. They have more equipment (both real world and in the OASIS) and they have this wealth of experience to draw upon for any situation. They are intimidating competitors. Also, their corporation isn’t above bribing, paying off, threatening, or physical acts of aggression. Sadly, Wade learns this the hard way.

I found myself cheering Parzival/Wade on throughout this book. I also did a few face palms when I thought Wade had lost his way or made a stupid move. The book has so many great scenes! I love how the beauty, wonder, and infinite possibilities of the OASIS are paired with the dingy, crowded, hopeless reality of the real world. Wade just wants an escape. I totally get that. Later in the book, he meets a character who wants to change that and make the real world something to look forward to and use the OASIS as a tool to help mankind get back on it’s feet and perhaps out into the stars. That was a great touch too because it gets Wade to consider the possibilities.

This was a most enjoyable book, perhaps one of my top 5 for the year. The fancy VR world coupled with all the 1980s nostalgia made this story unexpectedly fun. By twists and turns, I would be caught up in a fond Atari game memory one moment and completely entrenched in the next Easter egg challenge the next moment. And I bet this book is just as good on the second read.

The Narration: Ah, Wil Wheaton, you were born to narrate this book! Wheaton was the perfect fit for this novel. He makes a very believable teen Wade. His female voices were good. Each character was distinct. He was especially good at imbuing the characters with emotion and there is quite the range of emotions in this book. Great performance!

What I Liked: The virtual reality – so many possibilities!; the 1980s nostalgia; Wade’s real world life versus his OASIS life; the Halliday Easter eggs and the hunt for them; the Sixers make formidable foes; Wade’s on-line friends; the outcome of the book; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – a thoroughly enjoyable book!

What Others Think:

Lynn’s Book Blog

i09

Fantasy Book Review

Escape Pod

SF Site

Her Bookish Things

The Book Smugglers

Interview: Barbara Venkataraman, Author of Engaged in Danger

VenkataramanEngagedInDangerEveryone, please welcome Barbara Venkataraman back to the blog today. I have enjoyed her Jamie Quinn mystery series, Death by Didgeridoo being Book 1. Today we chat about modern culture in books, fictional book clubs, jobs worse than writing, and plenty more. Sit back and be entertained!

If you could be an extra on a detective TV show, what would it be?

Being a little obsessive-compulsive myself ( lol ), I think I would have enjoyed being an extra on “Monk”.

It’s time for you to host the book club. Who do you invite (living, dead, fictional, real)? And what 3 books will you be discussing?

Hmmmm…well, the books would have to be fun books because life is serious enough, yet have some heft to them. The Time Traveler’s Wife is one of my faves, so that’s in, also Bel Canto, a book I love love love and a new favorite of mine, “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves”. As for who I would invite, it would have to be my three sisters. They love to read, they’re lots of fun and we would have a lively debate.

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

I can only speak for myself, but in my books, sidekicks are an integral part of the story. They contribute information, they have their own lives going on and they add drama due to their relationships with my protagonist, Jamie Quinn. In the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, Watson is the perfect foil to Sherlock and the stories couldn’t exist without him.

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

I try not to date my stories too much with current pop culture references, although I do sometimes refer to television shows. There used to be such a long gap between a book being accepted for publication and the actual publication that any cultural reference was a risk. Now, with e-books on Amazon Kindle, an author can change or correct any reference in their book and have it back up on the site within a few hours. Of course, if you’re writing a period piece or a sci-fi book like “Ready Player One” which is set in the future but has a premise based entirely on pop culture references from the 80’s, then you’re fine.

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

I think the answer to that is yes. Over time, I believe that both heroes and villains have become more complex, not all good or bad, but flawed individuals. Look at “Dexter”, a serial killer who kills only wicked people.

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

Working at McDonald’s was the worst job ever. Writing is a dream come true, I enjoy it very much and I’ve met so many nice people as a result, people like you!

With 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?

This multi-genre shift hasn’t affected me at all. My test for a book is readability. If I make it past the sample and think it looks interesting, I will give it thirty pages. After that, I’m out of there.

VenkataramPerilInTheParkIf everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?

My warning label would say: “She likes to talk, especially after a glass of wine. She will wax poetic about good books she’s read and will steal your candy when you’re not looking.”

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

“Presumed Innocent”, Agatha Christie’s works, some Steven King, some Edgar Allan Poe, Sherlock Holmes, and Sherlock-influenced books like “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime”.

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?

I don’t have a moment when I was gushing over someone’s work in a forum where they could hear me, lol! I guess my most awkward moments are when fans get so wrapped up in my characters that they put in requests about who to keep for the next book, who should have a romance, etc. I love that they are so excited, but I can’t please everyone.

VenkataramanEngagedInDangerBook Blurb for Engaged in Danger, Book 4 of the Jamie Quinn Mysteries: 

Finally, life is good for reluctant family law attorney, Jamie Quinn–her father may get his visa soon, her boyfriend is the bomb, and her law practice is growing like crazy–but when she agrees to take on a high-profile divorce case, everything falls apart. What looked like an opportunity to work with her friend Grace and make some serious bucks has turned into a deadly game, one that could destroy their friendship and tear their town apart. Why couldn’t Jamie just leave well enough alone?

Places to Find Barbara Venkataraman

Goodreads

Blog

Amazon

Facebook

Previous Interview with Barbara

Interview: Scott McKenzie, Author of Drawing Dead

MckenzieDrawingDeadEveryone, please welcome Scott McKenzie. I enjoyed his gambling vampire book, Drawing Dead, and you can check out that review over HERE. We chat about Scott’s day job, some of his favorite books, his earliest fanfiction (He-Man!), and much more. Enjoy!

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

I’m heading towards 40 so I’m now in the period of my life where all new music is just a load of noise and all the good movies have already been made! Pop culture does influence my work though – I drop references to my favourite books and films into my stories, but my editor Rebecca Burruss is good at telling me when they take the reader out of the story. I guess it’s all about context. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline would be nothing without all the pop culture references, but if the same references were used in any other story, they would come across as having been shoe-horned in unnecessarily.

Given the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs? Would you take a selfie with the beastie?

I’d have to say vampires – I’ve written a few vampire stories and I love the mythology.  I’d be sure to have a sharp stake at hand though! I’ve just finished reading book two of Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pines series, so I’m sure anyone who has read those books would want to avoid the monsters in there… As for a selfie, the answer is no. I don’t do selfies, with or without beasts.

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

I work in IT – I’m an Operations Manager for an online gaming site. It is a busy, high-pressure job where things can change at the drop of a hat. In essence, my day-to-day activities are at the opposite end of the spectrum from someone who can sit down in front of a blank screen and tap away at a keyboard for a few hours. I’ve been lucky in my professional career up to this point by the fact that I’ve mostly worked with decent people, but every now and then you run into people or systems that get in the way of you when you’re just trying to do your job. I try to channel my frustrations into my writing – bad processes and bad management are common themes in my stories. My short story “Death by Autopen” is all about someone who finds himself on the President’s kill list due to an administrative error.

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?

One of my favourite novels is The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart. The central premise of the book – life is random so you may as well roll a pair of dice to decide your fate – would make for a great board game. However, some of the themes in the book may make it a board game for over-18s only!

McKenzieOneDayInGitmoNationIn 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 enjoy running giveaways on Goodreads and giving books away for free using Kindle Select. Every now and again I’ll set one of my books or short stories to be free in the Kindle store for a day or two. Sometimes I’ll promote the freebie and sometimes I just sit back and watch what happens. It’s a good experiment in working out the difference active promotion makes. I like meeting new people on Goodreads – it’s the best place to make friends with people who want to read the crazy stuff I’ve written. What I find most challenging is getting out of my comfort zone to promote my work. I’m an only child who likes to lock himself away in a room making stuff up!

What were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

I wrote stories as a kid, which were usually heavily based on what I was into at the time. I can remember writing Star Wars, He-Man and Transformers stories that were probably total nonsense, but the love of filling a blank page with a story has never left me. I also loved the read-along book and cassette stories that always came out with major film releases. Anyone who was into them should check out www.readalongadventures.com

McKenzieRebirthIf I wasn’t reading, chances are I was watching films. I went to the cinema a lot when I was a kid, and I was over the moon to get Alex Hyde-White to do the narration for my first audiobook – Drawing Dead: A Tale of Poker and Vampires. He was the star of Biggles: Adventures in Time, a film I remember watching in the cinema, which I still go back to now and again.

The Desert Island Collection: what books make it into your trunk and why?

I guess it’d be a good idea to put some long books on the list in case I’m on the desert island for a long time! Here are five books I’d happily be stuck alone on a beach with:

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas – Classic adventure.
It by Stephen King – My favourite book by my favourite author.
Killing Floor by Lee Child – Gotta have some Jack Reacher on hand.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – The perfect feel-good story.
Twelve Grand by Jonathan Rendall – Very funny and interesting book about a journalist who was given £12,000 to gamble with and told to write a book about it.

McKenzieKrampusWhat do you do when you are not writing?

With work and family life, I get very little time to write so the answer to this one is – everything else! I have two children who I spend as much time with as possible, but they inspire my creativity. Without them, I wouldn’t have written Krampus: A Christmas Tale (http://scottamckenzie.com/Krampus.html) or hooked up with Phil Ives, who did the incredible artwork for the book. Phil and I have just started working together on another scary picture book for children. This one’s called Frankentickler

Places to Stalk Scott

Website

Goodreads

Twitter

Publishing Blog