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.

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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

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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.

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GIVEAWAY!!!

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

Butterfly by Kathryn Harvey

HarveyButterflyWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Laura Jennings

Publisher: Cherry Hill Publishing (2015)

Length: 18 hours 18 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Butterfly Trilogy

Author’s Page

This book is about far more than simple seduction and erotic fantasies. The author spins a deep and engrossing tale that spans decades, showing what the drive of one young women can build over time. Butterfly is a unique and exclusive club that caters to women’s fantasies. The men, staff, and clients are all hand picked for their ability to be discrete. As a counter to that, there is the simple, elegant, and irreproachable Beverly Highland, who has become quite the businesswoman over the years. Her support of the evangelist-turned-politician Danny MacKay has helped him rise to his high station. But does she have ulterior motives? This book also has several engaging flashbacks to Rachel Dwyer in the 1950s. We meet her as a 14 year old girl and follow her through her troubles, watching her eventually transform into something else.

I’m sure this book has been labeled erotica or chick lit or romance and none of those labels do this book justice. True, it does have some of those elements, but they combine with other elements (suspense, historical fiction, etc.) to become something much more impressive. First, all the characters are so engaging. Even if I didn’t like some of them, I understood where they were coming from and wanted to know more about them. Second, the setting was interesting too. The modern-day parts happen mostly in Beverly Hills, California. The historical fiction elements happen in Texas, New Mexico, and California. Third, the plot had several unforeseen elements that kept me pleasantly surprised and turning the pages (well, listening to yet the next MP3 file and the next and the next).

The book opens with Dr. Linda Marques. She has a few failed marriages under her belt and that’s mostly due to her frigidity problems. She can’t seem to find joy in the bedroom. Her recent visits to Butterfly, where she dons a mask, have helped her start to face the deep reasons for her lack of enthusiasm. Trudie, who is head of a pool construction company, wants a man that considers her an equal, but she’s having a hard time finding such a person. Her regular hook ups at clubs and the occasional dalliance with someone else in the construction business have all left her unsatisfied. Yet her experiences at Butterfly, which often entail having entertaining arguments over brainy books, have shown her just how good things in the bedroom can be. Jessica, a lawyer for the celebrities, has a controlling and dismissive husband. She’s never really considered what she might be missing, that is, until she gets an exclusive invitation to Butterfly. There, she finds that she can call the shots in romance and it thrills her.

Now let’s bounce back to the 1950s and Rachel Dwyer, who was my favorite character. At age 14 she has to leave home as her father has made it quite clear, in his drunken abusive way, that she can’t stay there. She plans to head to California to beg a job from her mom’s friend but things go astray and she ends up on the wrong bus. Without enough money to make it to California, she feels stranded. That’s when she meets the young Danny McKay who offers to take her to his family’s farm and help her find a job. She instantly becomes smitten with him and they start a romantic relationship. Things become twisted when he places her in a house of prostitution. Rachel, still being somewhat naive, holds onto the hope that she will marry and have kids, that her love for Danny isn’t wasted. Rachel’s story shows us a woman who reaches her breaking point and at that point instead of accepting that life is awful and there’s no real escape from it, she becomes completely determined to find another way. At first, I thought Rachel’s story was one of those train wrecks that you can’t look away from, but really it’s about a young woman metamorphosing into something greater.

The men, while fewer that the female characters, are no less interesting. Of course, Danny MacKay is the lead male in this drama. We know from Rachel’s story that he’s not a great guy. From present-day Beverly Highland’s story, we see Danny for the political powerhouse he has become. He has the backing of his religious evangelical organization, plus other business people like Beverly. He has also invested in several properties and businesses over the decades, making him rich in his own right. He’s well known and now hoping to run for President. He’s still a very cruel man. I enjoyed very much hating on him throughout the book as he gives us so many reasons to dislike him.

This book does have several sex scenes, giving it an erotic flair. The scenes are quite varied showing what women desire at Butterfly, but also what they experience in the average, every day world (which usually lacks in quality when compared to Butterfly). A few of the scenes are violent and/or abusive (such as some of Rachel’s experiences) but the author doesn’t linger over them nor use them as shock factors. Instead, they reveal key points about the characters’s natures.

This was just an immensely satisfying book. I didn’t expect to like it so much when I dived into it. Quite frankly, I was expecting 16 hours of erotica with maybe 2 hours of character and plot development. What I got, which is much more desirable, is the opposite; the author built these amazing characters and did an excellent job revealing the plot. Going into it, I had no idea what Rachel would become, how Danny would rise so high, how Beverley would execute her end game. Truly, there is much more here than first meets the eye.

I received this audiobook at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: Laura Jennings did a pretty good job with this book. I really liked her distinct voices for all the ladies. However, several of her young male voices all sounded very similar. She did well with the older male voices. She was excellent at imbuing the text with emotions, and there were plenty of them in this book, several of them subtle. I also liked her Spanish accent for Carmella.

What I Liked: It’s a well-matched mix of romance, historical fiction, and suspense with a few erotic scenes; Rachel Dwyer really is the star of the book; great character arcs; the Butterfly club itself; the surprise turns in the plot; the very satisfying ending.

What I Disliked: Some of the male voices in the narration weren’t very distinct – they all sounded like Danny MacKay.

What Others Think:

{Dive} Under the Cover

Long and Short Reviews

Making Good Stories

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

Dynamite by J. C. Hulsey

HulseyDynamiteWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: J. Scott Bennett

Publisher: Outlaws Publishing (2015)

Length: 2 hours 10 minutes

Author’s Page

Set in 1877, Texas, Ruby Cantrell has just arrived via coach. Now she just need a lift to her uncle Bernie’s ranch. However, she has a couple of crates that need a light touch in transport. Jubul Foxworth, the deputy sheriff, is hired to give her a lift in his cart.

The first big chunk of the book is all set up. Mostly, the characters are all being rather polite with each other and not much is happening. We learn that uncle Bernie runs a horse ranch and that he and Jubul have some beef between them. Ruby would like them to talk it out and then set it aside. A man named Renfro (spelling?) has the ranch next door where he runs cattle. There’s a dispute between him and Bernie as to who owns what land along that border and things are rather nebulous because this is the great wild west where sometimes might makes right.

All the action occurs in the last 40 minutes of the book. There’s someone shooting at law enforcement. Then the bad guys have come up with a simple plan to do evil deeds. Of course, the good guys end up on top while keeping their hands clean. Really, it reminded me of Disney in that manner. There’s no real moral conundrums and things end neat and tidy.

There were only three ladies. Ruby, who is polite and is a love interest; Sandra, who is the cook at the Cantrell Ranch, and also a love interest; and the newsman’s wife who we never actually see or hear but is just referred to. There’s a sweet little romance going on throughout the plot that was pretty simple and fast moving.

All together, the story read more like a screenplay for an old time western TV show. If that is what the author was going for, then he did it spot on. I found the plot and characters rather predictable. It was a sweet little tale that might evoke nostalgia for those old western serials for some. For me, I wanted a bit more – more realistic characters all around, more complex plot, etc.

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

Narration: J. Scott Bennett did a good job. I think it must have been difficult to come up with so many cowboy voices and keep them all distinct, but he pulled it off. There was only 1 Hispanic accent (Sandra the cook) and he did that well. The voices for the lady characters were believable.

What I Liked: Jubul Foxworth – his name is just fun to say; the setting; Sandra the cook.  

What I Disliked: Characters and plot were rather predictable.

The Eyes of Texas by Lance Kennedy

KennedyTheEyesOfTexasWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Jack Chekijian

Publisher: Lance Kennedy (2015)

Length: 4 hours 2 minutes

Author’s Page

A secret organization that became known as the Eyes of Texas gained power in the 1970s over the student government of the University of Texas at Austin. Behind the scenes, they worked for years to promote the university’s initiatives and not the student government’s initiatives. This is a detailed look into that history and how this secret organization was forced out into the light.

On one hand I applaud the level of detailed information that went into this book. On the other hand, I think this book will appeal to only a small group of people. If you are really, really into secret societies or manipulation of large groups of people via shadow groups, then this is perfect for you. Also, I think fiction writers who are researching real secret societies would find this useful. As someone who was just looking for a book get away for a few hours, I found this book a bit tedious. It reads more like a lengthy legal document then a true tale packed with action and deceit.

This book also includes various excerpts (and sometimes who documents) from school emails, local news coverage, and communiques between the school government and the board that oversees the university. If you are researching this subject, then this book is an excellent reference work. If you are looking for some interesting, yet educational, light reading, then this probably isn’t the book for you. For myself, I often found my mind drifting while listening to this book. The same issues were brought up again and again as the book stayed true in detail to how issues and events were dealt with. However, for me, this became rather tedious. Still, if I ever need to research secret societies or the politics of large universities, I will be turning to this book for info.

I received a copy of this audiobook at no charge via the narrator in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Jack Chekijian did pretty well, though there wasn’t much need to vary his voice. When there was an email exchange, he did provide character voices. However, most of the book was delivered in a straight forward, newsreporter-like voice. 

What I Liked: The cover art; makes a good resource on the subject.

What I Disliked: Because of the extensive detail, I found this book a bit tedious and boring.