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

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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Skin Game by Jim Butcher

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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

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Chapelwood by Cherie Priest

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The Green Children by Domino Finn

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Dragon Gate by Gary Jonas (Jonathan Shade #3)

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Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword by Kiera Gillett

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

Chupa being weird.
Chupa being weird.

Cthulhu Armageddon by C. T. Phipps

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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

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A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

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Hair Power by Piers Anthony

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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

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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

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My first Kurt Vonnegut novel – Cat’s Cradle

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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.

The Beauty and the Beast Book Tag

Heya Everyone! I was recently tagged by The Audiobookworm in this fun book tag. Feel free to comment on my book choices or to add your own for each category in the comments. I’m going to tag a few people at the end, but if you want to throw up a post with your answers, leave me your link in the comments so I can swing by.

1. “Tale As Old As Time” – A popular theme, trope or setting you will never get bored of reading.

Theme – Underdog

BrownRedRisingThe Red Rising series by Pierce Brown was excellent. Can’t wait to see more from this author. If you’re not familiar with the series, it’s a mash up of Roman mythology/military command structure with terraforming of Mars and beyond. Be proud of your scars. You’ve earned them!

BernheimerConfessionsOfDListSupervillainD-List Supervillain series by Jim Bernheimer – which is just a lot of damn fun! Mostly, the supervillains in this series are just anti-organization. The various super-characters are imaginative and there’s plenty of humor.

Trope – Artificial Intelligence

DircksTheWrongUnitI recently read a whole bunch of AI stuff. The Wrong Unit by Rob Dircks was a delight. It had that right mix of humor and serious bits. The AI units are programmed to learn to care for their humans, so the anthropomorphizing of the AI units is realistically built into the story.

PerreaultProgenyRay Jay Perreault has written several stories that feature AI and I have been enjoying making my way through his audiobooks. Progeny is one of my favorite AI stories, though his AIs run the gamut of cold, calculating evil to human-like societal beings.

Heldig and Chupa being anything but helpful.

Serengeti by JB Rockwell was super intense in several ways. The story starts off with a space battle and the AIs are the ships, though they all have human crews. This space battle takes perhaps as much as half the book. Then the second half is the story of this one ship trying to limp home. The humans have to go into stasis, so that just leaves the ship’s AI and her little AI minion bots. The struggle to reach their goal, to stay sane over the lengthy years, to keep functioning just enough to keep the human crew alive – just an excellent tale.

Setting – Ancient Times

There’s plenty of stuff that happened in ancient times. Most of it is interesting, gritty, and dramatic. Here’s a list of some of the stuff I’ve read so far and have really enjoyed.

SmithRiseOfZenobiaConn Iggulden’s Emperor series – This series focuses on Julius Caesar, starting with his boyhood years and going all the way through his life to the dramatic, bitter end.

The Rise of Zenobia by JD Smith – set during the Roman empire in the Syrian city of Palmyra. I learned from this book and that always is a plus.

John Maddox Roberts’s SPQR murder mystery series – Set in 1st century ancient Rome during the time of Crassus and Pompey. Who could resist murder mystery and ancient Rome? Not me!

Patrick Bowman’s retelling of The Odyssey for young adults – The Odyssey of the Slave series. In this series, the focus is on a young lad who is taken as a slave when the famous city of Troy falls.

Colossus by Colin Falconer – This is a tale of Alexander the Great. Technically, it’s an alternate history, but if you don’t know much abut Alexander and the arc of his life, you wouldn’t know it. I really enjoyed this tale – elephants!

The Sekhmet Bed by LM Ironside – set in ancient Egypt. Ahmose was raised up to Great Royal Wife status. Political intrigue plays a big role in this story.

RobertsClaimedByTheEnemyRise to Power by Uvi Poznansky – set in the land of Israel in the 1st or 2nd century BCE. This is the first book in a series about David and his rise to power told from a secular point of view.

Claimed by the Enemy by Shauna Roberts – despite the title and the cover art, this book is pretty darn good. Set in ancient Mesopotamia during the time of King Sargon, the book focuses on two young individuals who were placed in difficult positions.

2. Belle – A book you bought for it’s beautiful cover that’s just as beautiful inside too

KayUnderHeavenGuy Gavriel Kay never fails to provide a beautiful story and his covers are always so well done. Recently, I read Children of Earth and Sky, and the cover is indeed just as beautiful as the tale inside. If you said I had to pick my favorite GGK novel, I would be hard-pressed to say which it was. His Sarantium duology is about the fall of an empire, so plenty of vast ideas going on there but with excellent pinpoint characters that do a great job of showing the human side. I also loved The Lions of Al-Rassan, which is based on Moorish Spain. There’s plenty of areas of conflict but also plenty of areas for commonality. I could go on and on, but you should just go pick up some GGK for yourself.

Slinky was chewing on my shoes so I gave her a book to look at.

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear was one of my favorite reads of 2015. The cover did a great job of capturing the Wild West and Steampunk mix of the story. Karen was also a wonderful character, not being a stereotypical kick ass heroine that are so abundant lately. She does kick ass, she’s just also a real person who happens to be brave when backed into a corner.

3. Beast – A book you didn’t expect much from but pleasantly surprised you.

AllendeZorroZorro by Isabel Allende was a pleasant surprise. In essence, it was an origin story for Zorro. I loved watching the black & white TV show was a kid so it was pretty cool to read this book and get Allende’s take on how Zorro came to be. There was a lot more depth to this character than I expected, which, in retrospect, was silly of me. Zorro lived during a time of Spanish colonialism in the New World – there were plenty of cultures and conflicts. Allende did a great job of pulling those elements into this tale.

ClinesTheFoldThe Fold by Peter Clines was one of the best SF Thriller novels I have read. It was fun. It was intense. It had SF themes that I could get into. The characters were also interesting, especially the lead guy who has a true eidetic memory. This was both a help and a hindrance to him.

King11226311-22-63 by Stephen King is the first King novel I have read. It won’t be the last. King did a really great job with the characters in this book. I know some folks have labeled him as a horror novelist, and nothing more. However, this book shows that he has a lot more going on. It’s obvious he put quite a bit of research in to the time and location (1963, Texas) of the bulk of the book. While I do expect that as I explore King’s works, this novel won’t be my favorite but it certainly delivered more than I expected.

4. Gaston – A book everyone loves that you don’t.

Luxor looking for another human who will do his will.

Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel – I was on the fence about this one. I liked that it was a post-apocalyptic/dystopian novel that wasn’t full of angst. However, I didn’t really care for the character Arthur Leander, who all the other characters are somehow connected with. He was boring and I wanted to know more about these other characters but the story kept coming back to him.

CoehloAlchemistThe Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo – it’s a young man’s adventure quest and it’s been done so many times before. All the ladies are in some subservient role, which is also a standard (unfortunately) in such adventure tales. Most of the men have a Personal Legend to find or to fullfill. Meanwhile, the 3 female characters lack any such ambition.

Grahame-SmithAbrahamLincolnVampireHunterAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith – The most exciting parts of this book were the dream sequences and even those were mean tricks. The reader enters each of the dream sequences as if they are the next part of the story and only at the end of the scene do you realize it’s a dream. I really liked Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and his Unholy Nights was pretty entertaining as well, so I was sad to say that I found this book to be a snoozer.

5. Lefou – A loyal sidekick you can’t help but love more than their counter part.

LynchTheLiesOfLockeLamoraJean Tannen from The Gentlemen Bastards series by Scott Lynch – This series is full of creative cursing, thievery, camaraderie, magic, death, romance, pirates, evil people getting their due, the good guys getting the crap beaten out of them, and more creative cursing.

PriestBloodshotHeldigAdrian from the Cheshire Red Reports by Cherie Priest – Adrian is still a bit of a mystery, since I have only read the first 2 books in this series (I hope there will be more in the series!). He’s ex-military on a search for his missing kid sister. He’s also a dragqueen, and his parents have disowned him because of this. He makes a great sidekick for Raylene, the vampire thief.

6. Mrs. Potts, Chip, Lumier & Cogsworth – A book that helped you through a difficult time or that taught you something valuable.

For over a year now, I have been going through this medical thing. I’ve basically been on bed rest for a year now and I was finally diagnosed in May with CTEPH – which is basically blood clots that have hardened in my pulmonary arteries, which has caused pulmonary hypertension to a moderately high degree, which will be fatal…. in perhaps 6-10 years, unless I have this big, kinda cool in a SF way, kinda scary in a mortality rate way, surgery. That’s scheduled for early February. So, these books have helped me cope with this lengthy process.

Good cat, good book, what else does one need?

Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford – this is a coloring book for adults and it’s the first one I ever bought. It’s remarkably detailed and it’s pretty amazing how coloring really takes me out of my current situation. Also, it’s something I  can do while listening to audiobooks.

CareyKushiel'sDartTerre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey – This series has been awesome and I have been part of a group read along with several wonderful ladies on the blogosphere. I’ve read Book 1, Kushiel’s Dart, so many times but it was quite something to share it with others in this in-depth discussion of the book. We started the read along back in May 2015, and now we’re on Book 7, Naamah’s Kiss. We’ll have to finish the last two books after my surgery – so that gives me something to look forward to. If you haven’t checked this series out, then I highly recommend it for alternate history and epic fantasy fans. I know sometimes it gets panned because there is plenty of sex in it, but the amount sex doesn’t outweigh all the awesomeness – the political intrigue, the sword fights, the desperate straights of the heroes, the saving of the realm! Honestly, the sex enhances the characters instead of just being padding to up the page count.

7. “Something There” – A book or a series that you weren’t into at first but picked up towards the end.

JordanPathOfDaggersThe Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan – It took me about 4 books to really get into this series, but I’m very glad I read it as it is a touchstone for epic fantasy fans. The first book really took a lot from Tolkien’s works and I was bit insulted the first and second time I read it. However, I was encouraged by a great group of book bloggers, who were part of this big 2+ years-long read along of the series, to keep going. Also, in an interview, Jordan spoke about how he wanted to model Book 1 on Tolkien’s works to give readers something familiar. Eventually, starting at Book 4, Jordan’s genius really starts to show through. I am very much hoping they do make this series in to a quality TV series or a quality series of movies.

8. “Be Our Guest” – A fictional character you’d love to have over for dinner.

ButcherDeadBeatHarry Dresden & Bob the Skull from Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files – This is one of my favorite urban fantasy series. The first few can be read in any order, but I think the series is best read in order since the larger story arc starts really building on itself around Book 4 or 5, though there are small things even in Book 1 that are tied into again later in the series. Bob would be a hoot at any dinner party. He doesn’t get much socializing, so he lacks all those hindrances that make most dinner conversations so dull.

HearneShatteredAtticus & Oberon from Kevin Hearne’s The Iron Druid Chronicles – this is yet another favorite urban fantasy series. Oberon would bring the appetite and the humor with his simple doggy demands. Atticus, being the 2000+ year old druid that he is, would be able to chat about several entertaining subjects.

Tagging Others

So now I would like to tag some other bookish folks, though please don’t feel obligated if this isn’t your cup of tea. Also, if I don’t tag you but you want to play along, please do! And leave me a comment with a link to your post so I can visit.

Lynn from Books and Travelling

Andrea from Little Red Reviewer

Julie from Oh, Julie!

Austine from Novel Knight

Book Wins from Novel Knight
Book Wins from Novel Knight

And I would like to smash into this long post a big thank you to Austine! I won a very fun book package from her recently. It was full of books and bookish things and fake tattoos and a red mask and nail art. And then she wrapped everything in gold paper! This box of goodies was such an upper, especially since I have been sick. I loved unwrapping everything and modeling the mask, tattoos, and nail art for my man. Thank you Austine!

Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: Marcus Damanda, Author of The Devil in Miss Drake's Class Series

DamandaDevilsInTheDarkEveryone, please give a warm welcome to author Marcus Damanda. Don’t miss the GIVEAWAY at the end of this post – an Audible.com version of The Devil in Miss Drake’s Class trilogy, narrated by Jessica McEvoy, ebook copies of the same trilogy, and ebook copies of The Salvation State.

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

On TV, I’d love to make an appearance on Game of Thrones. One of the principal villains of The Devil in Miss Drake’s Class, Maggie Lassiter, is a reference to the Lannister family, after all. What I would like to do is be in one of those tavern scenes drinking ale, telling bawdy jokes, surrounded by beautiful—oh, hell. They’d probably make me some portly little servant of “The Seven” or something. Maybe Bran’s next tutor in that whole “Three-Eyed Raven” story thread.

Is there a genre or literary niche that you feel hasn’t gotten its deserved amount of attention?

Actually, all the genres I love to read from are pretty popular, at present! I love horror stories, dystopian future, fantasy—and I’m very much in love with the young adult and teen market. But my publisher, Evernight Teen, has dozens of terrific authors of edgy teen romance, and I don’t think they get near the amount of attention they deserve.

DamandaADeilInDaylightTell me about Shazam, just because. How did he get his name? Is he a fan of your books? Or a hindrance to writing?

Shazam is my twenty pound Russian blue bundle of cat stubbornness, snarkery, and unconditional love. I had the name before I went hunting for a cat to adopt. I searched until I found a cat who fit the name. Always on the move, my Shazam. And he’s not just a fan of my books. He’s a contributor. He hops right up on the keyboard while I’m at work. See? Here’s the beginning of a new short story: “It was nearing midnight when I exited the safe house through the front 2333333333”.

What’s the most interesting gross fact you know?

I know that the human head continues to think for an indeterminate amount of seconds after decapitation. Takes time for oxygen and blood deprivation to get the job done. Varies by person. This is kind of interesting, because—what? Hey, you asked.

What now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?

I’d have to interview Robert Cormier, author of controversial young adult titles such as The Chocolate War and After the First Death. He was the very architect of the anti-happy ending—and I mean that really and completely, to the extent that his stories became predictable. And yet you couldn’t turn away from his special infusion of misery. I’d have a whole slew of questions, but my first would be, “Are you happy now? All better?”

Who are some of your favorite book villains?

I love Tolkien’s Gollum, first and foremost (not to be confused with Andy Serkis’s Gollum, although his was amusing in a different way). No villain has ever been so simultaneously reprehensible and sympathetic. For pure, consistent awfulness, I’m also a big fan of Yyrkoon from the Elric of Melnibone fantasy series. And, as a nameless collective, the entire government in Neal Shusterman’s Unwind dystology.

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

Exactly what I’m doing: teaching! Nothing keeps me up-to-date on the human condition so much as educating kids. One day I’ll retire, though, and probably end up selling comics and cards somewhere …

You used to be part of a garage heavy metal band. Has your interest in music slipped into your books?

Oh, yes. I bug Jessica McEvoy (the brilliant and talented voice actress who reads my audiobooks) all the time with my “soundtracks.” She’s very patient and tolerant of me. I used to think I was the only one who created playlist soundtracks for his own books. Now I know everyone does it, which is a source of never ending frustration to me.

(If you look in the back of the paper-bound edition of The Devil in Miss Drake’s Class trilogy, or The Forever Show and Teeth, I include my suggested playlists there, just for fun.)

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

Required reading: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Stephen King’s It (not to be confused with the horrible TV movie), Dean Koontz’s Intensity, William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist.

Passing discussion: Unwind, by Neal Shusterman, The Night Runners, by Joe Lansdale, and Edgar Allan Poe’s complete anthology of short stories.

DamandaTheSalvationStateCare 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’ll deliver on both!

I got to be the “featured author” at the school where I teach a couple years ago. This was, of course, awesome and indescribably fun. I got to talk to groups of kids, four or five hundred at a time in the gym, and at the end of my presentation I did a Q&A. I was really in my element, actually, until I called on one young girl whose question was, “How did you get to be so brilliant?” And that stopped me cold. I was literally stuttering in my inability to formulate a reply. To me, what I do, at its highest level, can best be described as “crafted entertainment.” I don’t even aspire to art, much less “brilliance” …

And I can’t “gush” enough in my praise for fellow Evernight Teen authors S.D. Wasley and Christine Potter. I do it all the time! Those two, now—THEY’RE brilliant.

DamandaDevilsInTheDarkBook Blurb for Devils in the Dark (Book 1 of The Devil in Miss Drake’s Class series):

“The paramedics shared a look: This one was serious.”

To most of the Facebook 15, bullying Audrey Bales was just a game – until two deep cuts with a Swiss army knife changed everything forever. Audrey didn’t want attention anymore. After five weeks at Fairview High School, Audrey wanted to die.

The doctors did the only thing they could with her: they put her away.

But in Fairview, Virginia, the nightmare is only beginning. The chat session had not gone unobserved. The Facebook 15 have drawn the attention of an ancient evil that lives only to punish those who would prey upon the weak.

They are the ghosts of 1,000 dead children – 1,000 suicides – and their master….

Their master likes Audrey Bales.

And as Audrey attempts to heal her mind and body, far from home, their master prepares for the justice he will unleash upon her return.

DamandaADeilInDaylightBook Blurb for A Devil in Daylight (Book 2 of The Devil in Miss Drake’s Class series): 

After three months in the suicide prevention wing of St. George’s, Audrey Bales is finally coming home. Enrolled at a new school, she plans to reinvent herself with a new look, new friends, and a second chance to be just like everyone else. But the kids who drove her over the edge aren’t through with her yet.

And one of her new friends has an agenda all his own.

“You will account for what you did to Audrey. You, and all the others. It will never stop …”

During the day, the halls of Battlefield High will echo with their screams.

“…until one of you ends it.”

And at night, their screams will be silenced.

DamandaTheDevilAtPlayBook Blurb for The Devil at Play (Book 3 in The Devil in Miss Drake’s Class series):

Now, too late for it to matter, Audrey understands at last. The devil of Fairview has been courting her for days, and watching her for much longer than that. The murderer is her boyfriend – and he’s been killing on her behalf.

His name is Jack Maddox, but everyone calls him Mad Jack. He’s planning a party, where everyone is invited, especially Audrey’s tormentors – especially the Facebook 15.

Audrey will have her revenge, whether she wants it or not.

Because, in Miss Drake’s class, the devil will have his due.

DamandaTheSalvationStateBook Blurb for The Salvation State:

“This is what the truth is. Second Salvations murdered my parents, and I’m running away.”

A single post over unregulated Internet channels. A sleeping society awakens to a chase, broadcast live on television screens all across the New United States of America.

Rebecca and Daniel have never met. A fifteen-year-old preacher’s kid and a sixteen-year-old atheist outcast, they have little in common. And yet they both have attracted the attention of a recruiter for Second Salvations, where bad kids go to be remade—or destroyed.

Agents of the New America Unity Church will stop at nothing to get them. They’re building an army, a modern children’s crusade, in which Rebecca and Daniel may be just the kind of future leaders they need.

If not, they might be just the kind of sacrifice necessary to keep the rest of the faithless in line.

AuthorMarcusDamandaAuthor Bio:

Marcus Damanda lives in Woodbridge, Virginia with his cat, Shazam. At various times throughout his life, he played bass guitar for the garage heavy metal band Mother’s Day, wrote for The Dale City Messenger, and published editorials in The Potomac News and The Freelance Star. To date, ten of his short horror stories have been produced by the Parsec Award winning NoSleep Podcast—featuring the brilliant and talented Jessica McEvoy, who has narrated four of his audiobooks as well. Currently, while not plotting his next foray into fictitious suburban mayhem, he spoils his nieces and nephews and teaches middle school English.

Places to Find Marcus Amanda

Webpage

Facebook

Twitter

Podcast

GoodReads

Amazon

Audible

GIVEAWAY!

Marcus Damanda is generously offering up 3 sets of the Audible.com audiobook trilogy The Devil in Miss Drake’s Class, along with 3 ebook copies of each of the following books: Devils in the Dark, A Devil in Daylight, The Devil at Play, & The Salvation State . You can enter the Rafflecopters below or you can answer these questions in the comments: 1) Do you prefer the ebook or audiobook version? 2) Do you have an Audible.com account? 3) Who are your favorite book villains? 4) Please leave a way to contact you if you win. Giveaways ends December 7, 2016, midnight.

Audible.com Audiobook copy of The Devil in Miss Drake’s Class trilogy (3 winners)

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Ebook copies of The Devil in Miss Drake’s Class trilogy (3 winners) Open International

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Ebook copy of The Salvation State (3 winners) Open International

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A Time Travel Tagging

I was recently tagged by Lynn over at Books & Travelling with Lynn. The subject is all about books and time traveling, in one way or another. I really enjoy these tag posts as they often give me something to talk about without having to use a lot of brainpower. Here are the Q&A.

SummersOwlDanceWhat is your favorite historical setting for a book?

It’s hard to pick just one. I’ve read plenty of stories set in ancient Greece (Mary Renault), Roman murder mysteries & ‘celebrities’ (John Maddox Roberts, Conn Iggulden), and the 1800s of the American West (David Lee Summers, Cherie Priest). Also, the Tudor era attracts me. In fact, I’m currently wrapped up in Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory.

AsimovStarsLikeDustWhat writer/s would you like to travel back in time to meet?

Isaac Asimov is near the top of my list. His books feature prominently in my childhood/teen years. I read his Lucky Starr series but also many of his adult novels. For kicks, I’d love to meet Homer and put to rest the age-old argument on whether Homer was male or female or collection of authors. I wouldn’t mind meeting Pearl S. Buck. Her novel, The Good Earth, was required reading in both the 5th and 9th grades (I moved and changed school districts, so that’s why I got hit twice with this classic) and I loved it both times. She had a very interesting life and it wouldn’t just be her books I’d pester her with questions about, but also her travel and years living in China.

LynchTheLiesOfLockeLamoraWhat book/s would you travel back in time and give to your younger self?

There’s so much good stuff out today! Apart from a few classics, most of the ‘safe’ or required reading I had access to as a kid was boring and often felt fake or like it was missing a big element of life – you know, all the gooey, messy bits that make all the good parts that much better. Luckily, I had full access to any SFF novel in the house and there were plenty of those. So to supplement my childhood bookshelf, I would give myself Andy Weir’s The Martian, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series, and The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.

Chupacabra
Chupacabra

What book/s would you travel forward in time and give to your older self?

I would speed ahead to my future self and hand her a copy of Robert E. Howard’s stories. His writing is some of the best I have enjoyed and yet several of his stories, Conan or otherwise, have certain sexist and racist elements that really repel me. This book would remind me that humans, including myself, are flawed and that things change over the years, such as views on a woman’s proper role in high fantasy adventure. Yet despite these shortcomings, a person can still love a story, or a person, or a country, etc.

ChaneyTheAmberProjectWhat is your favorite futuristic setting from a book?

I always enjoy closed systems and several feature in SF stories. These are domed cities (Logan’s Run by Nolan & Johnson), underground villages (The Amber Project series by JN Chaney), underwater towns (Lucky Starr & the Oceans of Venus by Isaac Asimov), very large space stations (The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey), etc.. There’s the wonder of discovering these places, seeing how they are supposedly working and will go on working forever, and then watching it all come apart in some horrible way that means death for most of the people in the story. Yeah, welcome to my little demented side.

 

Grahame-SmithAustenPrideAndPrejudiceAndZombiesWhat is your favorite book that is set in a different time period (can be historical or futuristic)?

For fun, I wouldn’t mind visiting Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I really like the idea of making polite ball jokes, decapitating zombies, working out in the dojo, and politely trading British insults over tea. Honestly, I think that is the only way I would survive the Victorian era.

RobertsTheKingsGambitSpoiler Time: Do you ever skip ahead to the end of a book just to see what happens?

Back when I was eyeball reading printed books (I do mostly audiobooks now) I had a ritual. I would start a book and at that moment that I knew I was hooked, that I had fallen in love with the story, I would turn to the last page and read the last sentence. Most of the time this didn’t spoil anything, but every once in a while there would be a final line that gave away an important death or such.

PriestMaplecroftIf you had a Time Turner, where would you go and what would you do?

Actually, I do have a Time Turner. My husband bought it for me at the start of September while he was at an SCA event. It was right after we learned that I was quite sick but a few weeks before we learned just how sick. So, lots of bitter sweet emotions tied up with that piece of jewelry.

Anyhoo, if I had a working one, I would go everywhere and do everything. I would start with planning things that Bill and I have wanted to do together (like celebrating Beltane in a pre-Christian era) and then add in things that I have always wanted to do but which my be a big snooze fest for Bill (such as Charles Darwin’s Beagle voyage).

JonasAnubisNightsFavorite book (if you have one) that includes time travel or takes place in multiple time periods?

Currently, I’m enjoying the Jonathan Shade series by Gary Jonas. Time travel really becomes an element in this urban fantasy series in the second trilogy with Ancient Egypt featuring prominently. I also adore Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. I finally read a Stephen King novel, 11-22-63. The characters were great even as the underlying premise was only so-so for me. The Dinosaur Four by Geoff Jones was a fun, crazy creature feature.

ButcherColdDaysWhat book/series do you wish you could go back and read again for the first time?

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, for sure. I’ve read the early books several times each and I get a laugh out of them each time. Also I would like to experience Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey all over again for the first time. That book showed me how prudish some of my ideas were when I first read it. I wonder what it would show me now? Perhaps the same thing, if indeed this book has had as big an impact on who I am as I think.

Tagging Other People

So in general with these fun tagging posts, I never want anyone to feel obligated to play along. As usual, if any of you want to play along, I definitely encourage you. You can answer any of the questions in the comments or you can throw up your own blog post and then let em know about it so I can come read it. Here are some people who I think would like this particular time travel subject:

David Lee Summers

Under My Apple Tree

Beauty Is A Sleeping Cat

On Starships & Dragonwings

Ebook Giveaway & Interview: Arthur Slade, author of The Hunchback Assignments

SladeDustEveryone, please give a warm welcome to author Arthur Slade. I’ve enjoyed Slade’s works – check out my reviews of Dust and Ember’s End. We chat about book villains, which fictional characters to invite over for tea, tough jobs, and plenty more! Also, don’t miss the international GIVEAWAY at the end of this post – ebook of Dust.

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

The Six Million Dollar Man. Battling sasquatches! Running at amazing speed! A bionic eye! When I was a kid this was the only science fiction type show on tv and I watched it religiously. In fact, I think we only had one channel on our TV (I grew up in the outback). So I’d love to experience that amazing, overwhelming joy that I felt whenever the show came on TV. In second place would be Star Trek and Space: 1999 (tied for 2nd, of course).

SladeEmber'sEndWhat has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

I was a night auditor for a hotel. It wasn’t horribly difficult, except that I was the only employee in the hotel from 1 to 7AM and that meant I was the plumber, the security guard, and the guy behind the desk. Often there were hours of boredom peppered by the occasional crazy party that I’d have to break up. Writing is certainly safer and, oddly enough, pays better. I was able to get a bit of writing done between 2 to 4 AM because the hotel was usually quite then.

SladeTheHunchbackAssignmentsMore and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel, etc. Any plans to take your works in the multimedia realm? Will there be more Arthur Slade audiobooks?

I do have plans to create more audiobooks. My latest novel, Flickers is in the hands of a studio right now that is putting the book together. I’ve been lucky, also, to delve into graphic novels via Kickstarter. And my steampunk series, The Hunchback Assignments, has been optioned for a movie. So there are several irons in the fire, so to speak. One of the joys of this modern digital age is that so many of these types of publications are easier to access. Well, except making movies. Those still cost a mountain of money.

SladeTheDarkDeepsWho are some of your favorite book villains? Who are your favorite hero duos from the pages?

As far as villains, I’m partial to Captain Hook. That villainous pirate who always hears ticking in the background. I’m also a huge Lord of the Rings fan, but in all honesty Sauron is a boring villain. He’s just so powerful and so far in the background. Instead betrayers like Saruman are much more interesting. Any of the hobbit duos were great fun in those books, too.

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

Hamlet, but he probably wouldn’t be able to make up his mind whether he wanted tea or a beer. Darth Vader, to see if he would use the force in a ping pong game. Katniss, to tell her to hurry up and make up her mind about one of those men. Sherlock Holmes, because he could probably find the socks that I’ve lost. And Julius Caesar (who appears as a fictional character in many works) to ask him whether he was represented properly.

SladeIslandOfDoomCare 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?

The restraining order from Stephen King doesn’t allow me to repeat the story. Kidding, of course. I did go to his house once because I was in Bangor, Maine. I just wanted to see it. Didn’t knock on the gates or anything. I did ask his neighbour what it was like to live next to Stephen King and he said, “It’s fine, but I get tired of the tourist buses pulling up and people getting out to stare.” Not sure I’d want to be that famous.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Netflix. Oh, and reading. Far too much Netflix, though.

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

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander. Still one of my favourites! I blame it for turning me into a fantastical type writer.

ArthurSladeAuthorPlaces to Find Arthur Slade

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Amazon

Author Bio: Arthur Slade was raised on a cattle ranch in the Cypress Hills of southwest Saskatchewan and he caught the writing bug at an early age. He is the author of eighteen bestselling books, including “Dust”, “Jolted,” and “The Hunchback Assignments.” He currently lives in Saskatoon, Canada.

SladeDustBook Blurb for Dust: SEVEN-YEAR-OLD MATTHEW DISAPPEARS one day on a walk into Horshoe, a dust bowl farm town in Depression-era Saskatchewan. Other children go missing just as a strange man named Abram Harsich appears in town. He dazzles the townspeople with the promises of a rainmaking machine. Only Matthew’s older brother Robert seems to be able to resist Abram’s spell, and to discover what happened to Matthew and the others.

GIVEAWAY!

Arthur Slade is offering up an ebook copy of Dust. Giveaway is open internationally! You can enter the Rafflecopter below or you can answer these questions in the comments: 1) What country do you live in? 2) Who are some of your favorite heroes from books? 3) Please leave a way to contact you if you win. Giveaways end October 7, 2016, midnight.

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Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: Brian E. Niskala, Author of Rhinehoth

NiskalaRhinehothFolks, please welcome Brian Niskala to the blog today. We chat about horror writers, financial growth, cycling, and a porpoise scare – plus much more. Indeed, Brian is quite the entertaining interview! There’s an audiobook copy of his suspenseful horror novel Rhinehoth up for grabs, so scroll to the bottom to check out the giveaway!

What makes you cringe?

Wow, what a question to lead off with. People who Mix capital and lower case letters when they hand write something. The use of the word “mine’s” as “That is mine’s” or at least I think they intend to use an apostrophe. People who think they drive a car/truck well and pass on the right. Okay I could go on and on…

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

Works of Shakespeare, I studied them in High School English and hated it. But now I see the root and invention of so many words came from him that I would like time to read all his works. I’ve actually read the Bible 3 times and actually have become rather opinioned on the whole thing. As a result, I like to read the bible every so often as a refresher. Not that I consider myself religious, but more spiritual as I have become older and wiser. I have in fact also read the translated Koran and Torah, but more so as a book, rather than a study. The Koran and Torah I would like to revisit and take my time to understand them as I do the Bible.

NiskalaArticlesInHorrorIDo you have any phobias?

No phobias that I can think of, I’m paranoid about some things, but no so much as to be a conspiracy junkie. Well now that I think of it, I could say I have a phobia about sharks. I mean I will swim in the ocean, or rather wade in it. But if I can’t see my feet, I’m too deep. I had a scare when I was a young teen. I was swimming in a bay off my uncle’s boat and something rubbed up against me. When I say I turned white and froze, I turned pale white and almost sank because I stopped moving my arms and legs. It ended up being a porpoise, similar to a dolphin. But when its fin broke the top of the water, I freaked! Not to mention I had recently watched Jaws and to this day I will not go deep enough in the ocean to swim. I have a lake by my house with a cool looking beach. I even freak out a little swimming over to this floating dock we have about 40 feet from the beach. If a piece of lake weed hits me or a fish, I nearly jump right out of the water!

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 write both fiction and non-fiction so I find myself being a research bee. I like to read and re-read a lot of books. I find myself reading Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, often. Then into my research, I try to craft characters around Campbell’s research of what works over the millenniums. I draw a lot from biblical reference, more so for the familiarity that people will associate with and as those stories have been so well crafted over time.

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

Besides writing, I am an avid investor. I have a book out on investing and I’ve always been interested in the stock and bond markets. I actually spend more time researching stocks and financials than writing. Writing fiction actually gives my mind a break from writing my non-fiction works. So in short, I would have probably chosen to be a stock broker or hedge fund manager at this point of my life.

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 have a Twitter account listed under the name Rhinehoth, fitting enough. I have about 19,000+ followers which that number seems to grow daily. I use Twitter to help promote my books as well as other author’s works that I enjoy. I have not started an official blog as of yet, but think that is my next social engagement. Self-promotion is paramount to being successful in just about anything, especially in book marketing and sales in general.

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

As a kid I was high energy! To say the least I had trouble sitting still, so writing was initially the furthest from my mind. I wanted to be a ship captain from an early age. However I did write this adventure story that got some national recognition when I was in 5th grade, I went to a couple of writing workshops as a result but wasn’t taken too serious as I was so young. My short lived ship captain and writing dream was put on hold for another passion. I had a friend who was interested in cycling and as a result I became a very avid cyclist. My love for cycling grew and soon I found myself pursuing a position on the US and Olympic cycling teams. So needless to say, my athletics took over as my primary focus. I began writing seriously after a long term bout with unemployment after the 2008 economic hiccup. It was either sit on the couch and “drink” (I haven’t and don’t drink alcohol) or keep active, productive and write. I had an opportunity to start-over and reinvent myself. I thought of what I dreamed of as a kid, being a captain of a ship was possible, if I bought the ship and captained it myself at my age. I remembered the excitement of getting national recognition for my story when I was younger and that is when my mind became flooded with countless book ideas. From there I knew what I wanted to do, write.

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

Edgar Allan Poe would be my first pick. He was the only one that truly wrote anything that kept my attention span in High School English. He would order blackbird pie of course…

Alexandre Dumas as he is my favorite author. The Count of Monte Cristo is my all-time favorite read. Said to be an expert cook himself, I would think where ever we ate he would order the house special to learn from and test his taste buds.

Agatha Christie I like her writing a lot, it gives you a glimpse into early 20th century with people’s thought patterns of her day. Her mystery/detective novels would keep me reading for hours. She would order the most exotic thing on the menu.

Jane Austen I love. Her novels are great reads and give you a real good representation of her time period. It truly is remarkable how our language has changed over a few centuries. The fact she died at 41 is a tragedy considering if she had lived another decade or more we probably would have a few more master pieces from her. She would probably order gruel and soft boiled eggs and boiled potatoes… 😉

H.G. Wells had a significant impact on my vision of the future. The fact he wrote about complex futures in a time period where the technology was still rather primitive is amazing! Somehow I always pictured him eating steak, baked potato and beer.

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

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Hell House by Richard Matheson

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

The Shining by Stephen King

The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

I would choose these 6, a nice number representing monsters, ghosts, demonic possession, and one who was driven mad. Classic mixed with some modern tales. My class would be based around how one’s inner thoughts can create a hell on earth.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I am a father of 4. Half of them are grown but still live home and the other half in school. They keep me pretty busy. But I am a voracious reader and audiobook listener as I travel often for business. I am well past the 1,000 mark of books read/listened to! But my true passion, above and beyond anything else is finance. Believe it or not, most of my daily thought pattern is how to invest my money to create more wealth.

Places to Stalk Brian E. Niskala

Website

Twitter

GoodReads

Amazon

Book Blurb for Rhinehoth

NiskalaRhinehothThis AudioBook has a full cast of characters! Over half a dozen actors and actresses were cast to complete this audio drama production.

Rhinehoth – Centuries ago, a great castle was built in the mountains of Germany’s Black Forest. Its ancient guardians still thrive in its walls, forever protecting its dark secrets, holding captive an enemy that threatens their very existence. Foretold is a story of an ancient warrior that is to return to the castle to free the captive Vampire Prince.

Simon Roberts was a petty thief who fled England to escape Scotland Yard after a series of unsuccessful jewelry store heists. He was recruited to do a job in Germany where he was to simply drive the getaway car while providing a look out. He thought this was going to be an easy job and a way to break into the German crime scene. But things go terribly wrong, and he ended up being the only survivor of the botched heist. Simon is quickly sentenced to a prison called Rhinehoth. This is where Germany sent the worst of the worst, surely not a place for a petty thief such as himself.

Rhinehoth is a great German castle that was converted in the late 1930s to a Stalag for war criminals of World War II. The converted prison’s modern day inhabitants are relentlessly tortured, starved, and sleep deprived. This contributes to the prisoners’ delusional visions that help hide the truth and keeps Rhinehoth’s secrets. Their captors are the army of Werewolves who have survived the centuries off the very flesh and blood of Germany’s worst forgotten criminals.

Simon, imprisoned, becomes plagued with visions from his subconscious ancient past with confusion of his modern day consciousness. He discovers through his visions that he is the ancient warrior Guthrie, who has come to free the Vampire Prince and all the captives, while saving the world from a dark plan of biblical proportions that has been orchestrated over the centuries!

GIVEAWAY!

Brian is offering up an Audible.com audiobook copy of Rhinehoth! Hooray! To enter the drawing, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1) Do you have an Audible.com account? 2) What makes you cringe? 3) Leave a way for me to contact you if you win. This giveaway ends August 25th, midnight my time.

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11-22-63: A Novel by Stephen King

King112263Where I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Craig Wasson

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2011)

Length: 30 hours 44 minutes

Author’s Page

Al Templeton has a secret and that secret is that he has a little time portal to 1958 in the basement of his diner. Each time he goes through, it resets everything, which has been allowing him to buy ground beef for his diner at an incredibly low price for years. Then Al decided he should do something worthy with this time portal. Alas, he is going to die of cancer before he can complete his self-assigned mission. So he entrusts this mission to his friend Jake Epping. Of course, Jake needs to test the portal out before he believes Al, but once he’s satisfied that it’s real, he’s willing to sit with Al and hear his plan out. The mission is to stop Lee Harvey Oswald from shooting President John F Kennedy on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. Al believes that by saving this one man, the Vietnam war (and then some) will be avoided.

This is my first Stephen King novel and it’s quite a dense work to start with. The first 6 or 7 hours of the book were pretty slow for me. There’s a little bit of action as Al explains the ‘test’ he did to verify that the timeline could indeed be changed, but mostly it’s a lot of convincing Jake and setting up the reasons why he needs to do this. I also believe that’s it rare that saving or killing one person can alter a major event, so it was a hard sell to me as to the merit of saving JFK – I don’t think saving him would necessarily avert the Vietnam war. So I found myself only listening to this novel in short spurts of an hour or two. But then Jake decides to the plunge and test the timeline himself. That’s when things really got interesting.

Jake Epping becomes George Emberson in 1958. He travels to Maine and settles in while waiting for the chance to set right a grievous injustice done to a mother and her children. The people in the small town are suspicious of newcomers and George’s real estate excuse doesn’t wash with everyone. George basically spies on the family he intends to save and the man who historically tore it apart. Jake of 2011 has no experience doing these sorts of things, so George of 1958 has to get comfortable deceiving people. I liked that George bumbled around a bit as he picked up the lingo and absorbed the atmosphere of 1958.

Once he’s done what he came to do, he returns to 2011 to check on the timeline and see what changes his efforts made. Once satisfied that he can indeed change history, he has the big choice to make. If he goes through to 1958, he has to live several years in the past before he can stop Lee Harvey Oswald on that fateful day, but then he may well also be trapped in the past.

I found myself more interested in George’s side projects at first – saving that mother and her kids in Maine, and then another person from a hunting accident. There was drama and apparently Time herself puts plenty of obstacles in the way, wanting to keep things as they are. Then things slowed down a bit as George settled into a teaching position in Texas (which is what he did in real life in 2011). Eventually, he starts making friends and becomes wrapped up in their lives. The drama rises again as he finds a romantic entanglement with Sadie, the school librarian.

The most interesting part of the book was probably the last 7 or 8 hours. These are the events in George’s life leading up to the JFK parade in Dallas, his attempts to stop Oswald, and the aftermath of those actions. Not everything is rosy and fine, which I thought was great and realistic and really made the story for me. George is faced with yet more tough choices and I felt my heart break just a little for him.

At first, I was a bit concerned that the author wouldn’t be addressing racial prejudices in this book, even though they were definitely alive and kicking in the 1960s. While George is in Maine, we don’t see much, though there are some characters that have racial issues with a Jewish character. Once George heads south, the author does a decent job of inserting a few well-wrought scenes that show the racial divide between folks at the time.

Over all, I’m glad I put the time into this book. It’s definitely well researched – from the foods available, to the TV shows, to women’s rights, to nearly everyone smoking nearly every where, to the cars, to the politics. I had zero interest in the Kennedy assassination before I read this book and now I have at least a little interest in the times and politics of his presidency. The author gives a brief talk at the end of the book about why he wrote this book and how his life was affected by the assassination and I thought that was a nice bonus to us listeners.

The Narration: Craig Wasson did a pretty good job with this book. Several accents – Russian, German, French, along with regional US accents – were required and he did them all well. There is also this huge cast of characters ranging in ages and jobs and situations. Wasson pulled them all off giving us a very good performance. George’s breaking heart and Sadie’s near-suicidal attitude really came through. 

What I Liked: George’s side projects of helping a few people out where he could in the past; the book was well researched and that came through in so many details; great narration; the building tension towards the end of the book; not all is rosy and fine at the end.

What I Disliked: The book started off pretty darn slow; I initially had no interest in the Kennedy assassination.

What Others Think: 

The Guilded Earlobe

Fantasy Book Review

Kirkus Book Reviews

Interview: Paul Stokes, the Brain Behind The Audio Book Reviewer

Heya folks, please give a warm welcome to fellow audiobook blogger Paul Stokes! He’s graciously stopped by for an interview. There’s bonsai trees, obstacle courses, and plenty more up for discussion. Don’t forget to check out Paul’s links to the blog’s audiobook giveaway site and his specially designed zombie apocalypse t-shirt!

How did you get into book blogging? And why specifically audiobooks?

For years I ran a fairly successful blog about bonsai trees. Then I got a office job after being in landscape construction for 17 years. I found it to be quite boring sitting inside all day, day after day. With nothing for the mind to focus on other than other people’s phone conversations and discussions about work related stuff. I started to listen to music on a daily basis and discovered that music plus earbuds pounding the brain all day in close quarters gave me really bad headaches. I do not remember how I initially found audible.com but I did and signed up for their free trial, I think I got two free books. The first audiobook that I listened to was Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry and I was hooked. Then I found myself debating on what my next audiobook choice was going to be. I started looking for reviews, because I didn’t want to waste a credit on something bad. I ran across many audiobook reviews sites, however there were way more print book only review sites and some print and audiobook review sites.

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

Superhero, hands down. Because superheroes are awesome.

When you are not reading/listening or blogging, what do you do?

I work for a company that makes websites and printed materials for association conferences. I make around 2 websites a day. This is why I have so much time for audiobook listening. I also work part time for the American Bonsai Association as their webmaster and social media manager.

Your blog features many reviews on works by small publishers and indie authors. Is that simply how it worked out or is there a push by you to feature these works?

In the beginning I wanted to only review audiobooks from the big publishers. Then I started to get more and more requests from the independents. Now I work with both, but focusing much more on the little guys who deserve a shot. Some of the best audiobooks I have listened to were from independent authors or publishers.

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

Not afraid to speak his mind or the truth. It is not his fault if you get angry, frightened, or defensive while interacting with him.

Is there a book to movie/TV adaptation that you found excellent? Is there a PC game to book adaptation that worked for you?

Nope, sorry.

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

This would have to be when I had the chance to interview Ray Porter, one of my favorite narrators. You can read some of my gushing here: http://audiobookreviewer.com/interview/narrator-ray-porter/

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

Would have to be time travel. If you go back in time and kill your fathers father what will happen to you?

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

It would be The Gunslinger by Stephen King, 5th grade.

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

I would invite Joe Ledger, Michael Talbot, Adrian Ring and Tesser. All fictional because real people usually suck.

Finally, what ongoing or upcoming events would you like to share with the readers?

We almost always have giveaways of all sorts of audiobooks going on.

In a special promotion to not only raise awareness of ABR but to give something special back to the audiobook community, ABR had a custom tee shirt designed and are available for purchase at teespring.com

http://teespring.com/audiobook-and-zombie-apocalyps

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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?

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