Thursday, January 31, 2013

Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason (REVIEW)

I've always been a huge Hitchcock fan, even though I grew up well after the height of his career. Personally, I like his darker films, those with a bit of macabre humour to them, like The Trouble With Harry. It's rare to find anybody who can manage to recapture that magic - Shallow Grave is the only successful example that comes to mind - so I was cautiously optimistic when Three Graves Full came my way and I read the opening of the cover blurb

More than a year ago, mild-mannered Jason Getty killed a man he wished he’d never met. Then he planted the problem a little too close to home. But just as he’s learning to live with the undeniable reality of what he’s done, police unearth two bodies on his property—neither of which is the one Jason buried.

Much to my delight, Jamie Mason absolutely nailed the difficult mix of macabre humour and horrific suspense, weaving a story that keeps the reader on edge, never quite sure in which direction it will go. It all starts with a meek, quiet, lonely young man by the name of Jason who is still mourning the untimely death of his wife - who was planning to leave him - and who is haunted by the body he buried at the back of his property line. Too wracked with guilt to tend to his lawn, he calls in a professional landscaping service to tidy up the front yard and the sides of his house, where the discover the first body.

The discovery of the second body leads us to Leah, an equally quiet, equally lonely young woman who is still mourning the murder of her husband, and who is haunted by the the absence of a body to provide closure. It also leads us to Boyd, a man on the fringe of society with a connection to Jason's house, Leah's husband, and the second body buried beneath the window. If it all sounds convoluted and complicated, it is, but that's part of the beauty of the tale. Mason slowly unveils the life story of these characters, connecting the dots for us, while establishing their deepest motives.

Once the police begin to close in, the tension truly begins to mount, and once Jason decides he has to dig up the third body before the police do, all three characters find themselves drawn together in a case of mistaken identities, misplaced suspicious, and wrong-place/wrong-time disasters. It's the kind of story where you can see the twists coming, but can do nothing to evade them, no matter how much you cringe. With the bulk of the action taking place over about 12 hours, you just want everybody to stop, to pause, and to take a breath, but fear and guilt do not make for rational thought.

Even once the story switches from subtle mystery to over-the-top action, Mason keeps tight hold of the reigns, somehow managing to juggle all the different plot lines and character motivations. By the time we careen madly towards the conclusion, with strange alliances and fresh bodies muddying things further, the story takes a final twist, and this time you don't see it coming. It works - beautifully, in fact - with a finale that's not only rewarding on its own, but worthy of the intricate tale that proceeds it.

Extraordinarily well-done, this is a book that I would love to see filmed, but only with the right director at the helm. If you're a fan of Hitchcock, or perhaps the Coen brothers, there is a lot here to enjoy. If that opening of the cover blurb sounds at all appealing, then give it a read - you won't regret it.

Published February 12th 2013 by Gallery Books
Hardcover, 320 pages

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Waiting On Wednesday - Prophet of Bones by Ted Kosmatka

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Prophet of Bones by Ted Kosmatka
April 2, 2013

Paul Carlson, a brilliant young scientist, is summoned from his laboratory job to the remote Indonesian island of Flores to collect DNA samples from the ancient bones of a strange, new species of tool user unearthed by an archaeological dig. The questions the find raises seem to cast doubt on the very foundations of modern science, which has proven the world to be only 5,800 years old, but before Paul can fully grapple with the implications of his find, the dig is violently shut down by paramilitaries.

Paul flees with two of his friends, yet within days one has vanished and the other is murdered in an attack that costs Paul an eye, and very nearly his life. Back in America, Paul tries to resume the comfortable life he left behind, but he can't cast the questions raised by the dig from his mind. Paul begins to piece together a puzzle which seems to threaten the very fabric of society, but world's governments and Martial Johnston, the eccentric billionaire who financed Paul's dig, will stop at nothing to silence him.

Sounds like an interesting twist on the old evolution/creation argument, with a touch of Indiana Jones and a definite Michael Crichton to it. Definitely curious to give this one a read . . .

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett (REVIEW)

Wow. As The Warded Man wrapped up, I thought I knew precisely where the story was going, with the ominous march of the Deliverer's army across the desert setting up the next logical chapter. Imagine my surprise when The Desert Spear opened not with their march, and not with the Painted Man's journey, but with the introduction of a new class of demon. Peter V. Brett raises the stakes right from page one, exposing us to a hierarchy of cold, calculating princes and sinister mimics within the demon ranks. It takes a while before we make our way back to this new threat, but it makes for a climactic ending that puts many similar novels to shame.

As if that weren't enough of a shock to system, Brett takes the bold step of rewinding matters to the opening chronology of the first novel, and then switching the dominant focus from Arlen (the Painted Man) to Jardir (the Deliver). We get to re-experience much of their relationship, this time from the other side, providing deeper insights into just who Jardir is, and what made him the kind of man who could so coldly put duty and destiny before comradeship. Like I said, it's a bold move, establishing him as a protagonist in his own right, rather than just the villain he seemed set up to be in the first book. It took me a while to settle into his world, anxious as I was to get on with the story, but I really appreciate the way in which it creates a conflicted sense of loyalty for the author, the reader, and the characters.

Jardir's opening arc ends with the first stage of his Northern conquest, and that's largely where the core plot stops moving forward. It's another gamble on Brett's part, taking us to what we expect to be the main thrust of the novel, and then hitting 'pause' on the war. Instead, what he does is layer on the character development, bringing back all the key characters from the first book. If that sounds like a complaint, it most definitely is not. He allows his characters to mature, to grow, to explore their relationships, and to take on new responsibilities within a world on the cusp of war. Main characters become fully-fleshed out, with Arlen, Leesha, Rojer, and Jardir carrying the weight of the tale, but even the secondary characters taking on new life.

It's interesting the way in which Brett adds a political aspect to the story, offering us an alternative to war that relies on the tenuous relationships of challenged, damaged individuals. The culture clash is just as harsh as you would expect, and the ways in which it's dealt with are as entertaining as they are original. I truly appreciated how Leesha and Rojer became involved in Jardir's world, and the long-simmering conflict between Leesha and Inevera was a high point of the tale. It's not just a culture clash between the North and the South, however, but between those who would fight and those who would hide. In taking his wards to the people, the Painted Man demands that they prove themselves up to the challenge of making use of those wards. It's a journey that ultimately leads him back to Renna, with their relationship forged anew, contributing to an ending that's as dark and dangerous as it is exciting.

At this point, I'm not entirely sure what to expect with The Daylight War, given the ways in which Brett so surprised me with the transition between the first two volumes. I do know that I'm far more invested in the characters than I was in the first volume, and that the revelations regarding demon hierarchies has me intrigued to see where he's taking the story next. The Demon Cycle is quickly proving to be a favourite of mine, with the back-to-back-to-back journey between books precisely the kind of exhilarating ride I always envy in readers who are new to a series.

Published March 1st 2011 by Del Rey
Paperback, 638 pages

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Secondhand Sunday with Meeah Cross (aka Michael Cecilione)

Even in a world driven by reader trends, and fuelled by the instant availability of e-books, there is still nothing that can quite compare to wandering the dusty shelves of a secondhand bookstore and discovering a hidden gem, wedged deep within a stack of well-read paperbacks. With that in mind, welcome to Secondhand Sundays, a new feature that celebrates the old-fashioned joy of hunting down those tattered-and-torn titles we've heard of, but never seen; and of discovering bent-and-broken books we never knew we wanted, but suddenly knew we had to have.

As I'm able to reconnect with those authors who continue to stock my shelves, I'd like to use this opportunity to celebrate those books that first kindled my love of books, and those experiences that remind me of why that love has never faded.

First up is an absolutely fascinating author who I first encountered as Michael Cecilione, but have since come to know as Meeah Cross. Tracking her down wasn't easy but, like the search for her books themselves, the effort involved in making that discovery is part of the magic of reading.

Q: Thanks for taking the time to stop by today, Meeah. During the mid to late 90s, you published a number of edgy, erotic horror novels under the name of Michael Cecilione. Were those your first published works, or had you seen print before that?

A: Well, to start, I’m going to have to suggest that we conduct this interview in a rather unorthodox manner. Because I don’t feel comfortable doing it as “Michael Cecilione” or “Michael Cross” or any of the various pseudonyms that he wrote under over the years.

The fact is that Michael Cecilione died, quite literally, a number of years ago. The best way to understand what I’m trying to say is to understand “death” the way the family member of an Alzheimer’s patient talks about a loved one “disappearing” in the end stages of the disease. They talk, and not at all metaphorically, of the person, as they knew them, having “died,” even though their physical body continues to live on, often for years. In my case, someone replaced the personality that died…and that is who is talking to you now, the person who I should have been all along, but who’d been sublimated and displaced by a personality construct conditioned at birth and for years afterwards by the expectations of others.

The early books that you mention were, in a very literal sense, not written by me at all, but by someone else entirely. I stand in relation to these books, to Michael Cecilione, as might an heir, as a literary executor. Michael Cecilione has left me his works and some memories of his intentions and experiences but no more sense that I had anything whatsoever to do with creating his books or living his life than you have.

So with that said, let me answer your question, which I’ll repeat since we’ve been down the rabbit hole for some time now since you first asked it:

During the mid to late 90s, you published a number of edgy, erotic horror novels under the name of Michael Cecilione. Were those your first published works, or had you seen print before that?

No, they weren’t his first. Cecilione’s first published novel was a contemporary gothic horror novel called Soul Snatchers, a quite conventional book. That was followed by a far more interesting novel called “Deathscape” (a truly horrible title that the publishing company chose—it was the worst of the alternative titles he gave them, so it was ultimately his own fault. He originally wanted to call the novel “Croaker,” but his editor thought it would make people think it was about an evil frog). Anyway, those two novels were the bridge to the edgier and far more overtly erotic vampire novels that followed, “Thirst” and “Domination.”

Q: After a post-80s lull, horror experienced a bit of resurgence in the late 90s. Were you looking to capitalize on that with your books, or was the timing just a happy coincidence?

A: Believe it or not, he really wanted to write “serious” experimental literary fiction. He wanted to write stuff like his literary heroes wrote, writers like Samuel Beckett, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Robert Coover, and William S. Burroughs. There wasn’t much chance of finding a publisher for that sort of thing, though, not then or now. So he looked around at what popular commercial genre might accommodate some of the elements of that kind of fiction. Horror seemed the logical choice. You can add a great deal of surreality to horror and no one will notice that you’re doing it. He considered “Thirst” and “Domination” as pop-culture recasts of the work of the Marquis De Sade retold as vampire novels. The Marquis De Sade’s philosophy, if you take the time to read between the dirty parts of his most infamous novels, is the quintessential statement of vampire philosophy.

Q: It was Domination and Thirst that caught my eye, staring back at me from the second-hand bookstore shelves, but is there one title from the Michael Cecilione era that holds special appeal for you?

A: Yes, Easy Prey. It may actually be the best novel from that period. It is a very violent weird kind of serial killer novel that borders on the supernatural in parts. It was a novel that even creeped Michael out as he was writing it. That doesn’t happen often because of the critical distance you have to maintain when you’re writing. He got rather abnormally absorbed in the character of Frank Noone. He identified with him unfortunately—a character without a core or identity of his own, floating from one alias to another, playing each one as a role to be eventually discarded when it’s worn out its usefulness…Frank No-One. I imagine that Michael must have begun to understand the emptiness at the center of his own identity as he was writing this novel.

Q: How did the end of that era come about? Was it a matter of a contract running its course, or were you simply read to move onto other things?

A: Well there was a period of time that Michael was writing under a pseudonym. I think the idea was that he was going to go more mainstream than category horror, in the direction of mainstream psychological suspense thrillers. So he wrote a fairly decent novel called “Merciless” under the name Michael Cross. It disappeared without a blip on the radar. And then he came out with a really wretched book called “Muse,” which he wrote almost as proof of his contention that the most successful commercial novels were often the stupidest and most poorly written.

He told everyone who’d listen that he’d bet them anything that “Muse” would be both his worst-written and most commercially successful book. And wouldn’t you know it, sadly, he was right! He made more money on “Muse,” both on the advance and in royalties than he did with any other novel before or since. In fact, he might have made more money with that one wretched book than all his others combined. But it was a joyless victory, confirming all his worst suspicions. After that experience, he was utterly disgusted with himself and with commercial publishing.

His last book with a major publishing house was the second book on the contract after “Muse.” The publisher quite naturally wanted another book like “Muse.” But Michael found himself, personally and professionally, undergoing a severe crisis of identity on virtually every front. He was, looking back on it now, most likely undergoing a nervous breakdown without anyone noticing. He was, in fact, beginning to commit suicide.

Instead of another book like “Muse” he wrote a book purely as an act of defiance, revenge, and rebellion. A novel called “Afterhuman.” It was dedicated originally “To everyone who doesn’t give a shit,” which tells you all you need to know about what must have been his state of mind at that point.

With “Afterhuman” Cecilione committed, if not yet physical or identity suicide, than certainly career suicide. The publisher marketed it as a vampire book which it most definitely was not. People who bought it under that misapprehension were surely and rightfully disappointed. It was the kind of book that he had wanted to publish all along. It was nasty, violent, nihilistic, and full of rage and disgust for the world and all it’s hypocrisy. What most people missed, though, is that it is also a very funny, over-the-top piece of black humor. It was his version of “Naked Lunch” and Lautreamont’s “Maldoror.”

His agent was shocked that the publishing company actually ended up publishing it at all. He suspected, and I think he may have been right, that it was unlikely anyone at the publishing company even read it, that it was just passed it along to production. That happens, by the way, more often than people outside the industry might suspect.

Anyway, “Afterhuman” vanished, too, without a trace, shot quietly in the back of the head and dumped in the backlist swamps where no one would ever find it. Happily, though, it lives on, risen like the ghastly undead thing it is. I’ve since self-published it in a revised and expanded edition with Amazon. I think it’s one of the few things that Michael ever did right in his life.

Q: In the years since then, your personal life has undergone quite an evolution. In fact, when we first chatted, you compared those books to messages in a bottle that have floated far from their source. Looking back, what do you remember the thoughts and emotions behind those books?

A: I guess I answered this question in great part at the beginning of this interview. Perhaps another way for readers to understand what otherwise sounds plainly psychotic is that I feel towards those old books what many people might feel if they came across a diary they’d kept when they were sixteen. “I’m not that person any more,” might be their first reaction. “I can’t imagine ever having been that person,” might well be the second.

Part of it is a matter of natural growth and change. But, in my case, it’s a lot more radical. Most people, despite the changes in their lives, look back in time and see a continuity to their identity, which I do not.

Whatever the confluence of factors responsible for the personality who wrote those books—at one time known as Michael Cecilione—those factors stopped cohering several years ago. They dispersed, like ripples in a pond, growing weaker and weaker at the periphery until they eventually disappeared altogether. There was never anything at the center.

To answer your question, I remember nothing of the thoughts and emotions from that period. I am not that person and never was. To put it another way, I am the product of a new and entirely different pattern of brain activity.

The only thing that remains the same is that I still write. Although in a decidedly different way than previously.

Q: Along with your personal transformation, your writing has undergone a significant evolution as well. As identities have come and gone, you found expression through horror, fetish erotica, and avant-garde/surrealist fiction. Has it been more a matter of art imitating life, or has your fiction served as a necessary means of self-expression?

A: I think it is a matter of both. And sometimes a third, too: often my life has imitated my art. Or my art has certainly seemed to predict the trajectory my life would take. Michael Cecilione was writing about his own death and who was eventually going to replace him when, to him, it could have seemed nothing more than a crazy fantasy. He never became a vampire or a serial killer, but at the time both would have seemed a far more likely scenarios than the fantasy that he was ever going to be replaced by a married woman.

Its weird, looking back, at how many things he’d written about in novels that eventually ended up actually happening, if not in his, than in my real life. Some of those things were good, others not so good. When I look at some of his old books now it’s as if I’m reading about myself in his imagination. He’s writing about my future. I like to think that maybe somewhere deep down he knew that and welcomed it. That he was trying to liberate me.

Q: With such a wide range of styles and genres behind you, I have to ask, was there ever a time when you worried how a reader would react, or have you written primarily for your own satisfaction?

A: With the exception of that one novel, “Muse,” Cecilione always wrote primarily for his own satisfaction. That is one lesson I’ve learned from him that I’ve taken quite to heart.

Of course, writing for a commercial audience almost always involves a certain amount of compromise if you’re going to be successful. Especially if you’re a writer who, by nature, stands as far outside of the mainstream as I do in virtually every conceivable way. For me, writing for other people, for a perceived audience is always an enormous mistake.

I think you have to decide why you’re writing. If it’s just to make money, then you approach it one way, just like any other job. You don’t get a job at Wal-Mart, for example, stacking shelves to express yourself. You do it to make money. And you can write that way, too.

But if you approach writing as a calling, with a religious spirit, as Art, as a means of being engaged at the deepest level with life itself, then you don’t concern yourself with an audience, a publisher, with anyone at all. You write for your own satisfaction and your own enlightenment. You write because you have to write, because not to write would be like not to breath. You write because no one else is saying what you have to say and you want to see it said at least once and if you have an audience that’s great, if someone will pay you even better, but if not, you’re still satisfied. More than satisfied…you’ve already gotten out of the work all that you could ever ask, which was the experience of doing it. Your song has been sung, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, and there’s nothing more to life than that.

Q: In terms of reader reactions, what is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've ever encountered?

A: Some people have actually appreciated and understood what I’ve done—or tried to do. That always surprises me. I don’t expect that my attempt to communicate anything like my true intention will actually succeed despite my most painstaking efforts. Communication — real communication — is one of the rarest things of all despite all the interpersonal chatter in our lives. So I don’t take it for granted on the rare occasions when it happens .

Q: In this era of self-publishing, how (or perhaps why) did Afterhuman Press come about?

A: I started by doing a lot of writing for the internet. All of it unpaid at the time. Yet the online writing I was doing gratis was far more absorbing and rewarding to me than anything I was doing as a paid professional. I liked—and still like—the immediacy of writing and “publishing” material with just a click. I like being able to connect directly with an audience. And I like writing whatever I want, whenever I want, without the censorship of an agent or editor or a publisher all of whom, ultimately, have one goal: to make money.

To my delight, I‘ve discovered that there are vast subcultures of people out there ignored by the dominant media. There’s an audience for virtually everything. It’s just a matter of finding it. Now with the advent of Amazon and other e-publishers and online distribution channels, a writer can have the best of both worlds. You can write whatever you want and you can make a couple of bucks, too.

Q: Do you foresee a day when Afterhuman Press may welcome other authors to its pages, or does the imprint exist solely to house your own work?

A: Oh there’s no reason a writer would want to publish with Afterhuman Press because there isn’t anything I can do for them as a publisher that they couldn’t do for themselves just as well—and keep every penny they manage to make in the process. That’s the beauty of self-publishing today. You can reach the entire world with just a click of your mouse. You don’t need a publishing house with distribution to brick and mortar stores. You don’t need to put paid advertisements in newspapers or the backs of magazines. You don’t need someone else to e-publish your book for you. You’re limited by nothing but your own imagination and ingenuity. You don’t need anyone anymore. As a solipsist, I like that.

Q: Looking back over your entire literary career, what book (or books) stands out most vividly in your mind? Is there a title you’d like to be remembered for, a book that could serve as your legacy?

A: I guess if I had to pick one book from the Michael Cecilione days, I’d say “Afterhuman” should serve as his “legacy.” Shortly before his death, he wrote another experimental novel called “pornocalypse” that I suspect fulfilled a vision he had of the kind of literary experiment he felt called to write. I think they stand at the outer limits of what he’d hoped to do as “art.”

There were a couple of other novels that he wrote at the end that I also feel are worth mentioning. One was a comic sci-fi detective novel called “Fake Girls,” which he wrote under the name Matthew Sloan. The other was a thriller called “Hardcore Romeo” under the name Mark Nadja. He got better as a writer toward the end, knowing, I suspect, that his time was limited.

Q: Is there a favourite quote or scene from your work that you feel particularly fond of? Maybe a line or two that sticks in your head and reminds you of why writing that book was important to you?

A: “Real life is worse than any horror story. Because in real life the monster gets us all in the end.”

I forget what book this line comes from. One of Cecilione’s early ones. Possibly “Deathscape.” You know how in horror films the monster is always vanquished in the end or, at the very least, you have a character or group of characters who get away. The credits roll and the audience feels relieved. Well if the movie kept running, those people would eventually die too. Everyone dies. In real life, the monster gets us all in the end whether you call it Freddie Krueger or Dracula or Cancer.

So, from an existential point of view, what’s the point of running away from the monster? The monster is the inescapable fact of Death. If survival makes for a happy ending, life makes for a very bleak horror story.

As Camus said, the only serious philosophical question worth asking is why we don’t commit suicide. When we run from the monster all we’re doing is just putting off the inevitable. No matter how fast or far we run, ultimately we’re running right into the monster’s savaging embrace. He’s waiting for us in the next sequel. And we each get only so many sequels.

Well, maybe the best we can do is make the monster run his ass off chasing us down for as long as possible. Poke a bar-b-cue fork in his eye, hit him with a flame-thrower, whatever, just really give him hell. And when, panting and puffing, he finally has us cornered, spit in his eye. As Camus noted, “There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn.”

Q: With your personal life having passed some significant milestones, what’s next for you in terms of publishing? Is there another literary reincarnation in the works?

A: I’m currently finishing a novel that’s sort of a cross between Anne Tyler and Jennifer Finney Boylan. It has a transsexual main character who isn’t treated like a freak but like an ordinary person with human concerns the same as anyone else. I’m also in the process of reworking one of Cecilione’s last unfinished manuscripts. It’s a literary porn novel called “The Brothel of Beautiful Corpses.” In other words, two diametrically-opposed projects neither of which have a chance in the world of finding a commercial publisher. But when I stop writing what I really want to write out of a concern for an audience or a publisher than it’s time for me to stop writing altogether.

In between major projects, I write and draw comics and pen plenty of sleazy porn for fun and money. People look down on pornographic writing but I consider good porn to be pure magic. Think about it. With words alone you can cause another person separated from you by time and space to experience the most intense physical pleasure a human being is capable of experiencing. You can literally cause them to writhe in ecstasy, spasm in orgasm, squirt actual bodily fluids. It’s astonishing!

Why aren’t porn writers honored more? Beats me. It’s really a noble endeavour. They provide people with so much pleasure. When I consider it, I think it’s arguable who gives readers more real pleasure, Shakespeare with all his plays and sonnets or someone writing a sleazy internet porn story under the name Anonymous.

Q: Finally, before we let you go, do you foresee a day when those early Michael Cecilione may see life again as e-books, perhaps through the efforts of Afterhuman Press?

A: No, I don’t think so. For one thing it would be a matter of retyping and reformatting them all. And what a tedious task that would be even if I had nothing to do! I’d rather be spending my typing-time doing my own stuff. I haven’t been me for way too much of my life…I have a lot of catching up to do. Right now, it’s kind of cool that those old books are so old and so out of print and so rare. It makes their sporadic rediscovery by someone, like you, for instance, that much more special.

Thanks again for joining us, Meeah!

Thank you for inviting me, Bob!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Stacking The Shelves & What I'm Reading

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme being hosted by Tynga's Reviews, while Mailbox Monday is being hosted by Lori's Reading Corner this month (see Mailbox Monday for each month's host). Both memes are all about sharing the books you've added to your shelves - physical and virtual, borrowed and bought. It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey, and it's focused on what's in your hands, as opposed to what's on your shelf.

A few new ARCs this week . . .

Red Sparrow: A Novel by Jason Matthews
In today’s Russia, dominated by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, state intelligence officer Dominika Egorova struggles to survive in the cast-iron bureaucracy of post-Soviet intelligence. Drafted against her will to become a “Sparrow,” a trained seductress in the service, Dominika is assigned to operate against Nathaniel Nash, a first-tour CIA officer who handles the CIA’s most sensitive penetration of Russian intelligence. The two young intelligence officers, trained in their respective spy schools, collide in a charged atmosphere of tradecraft, deception, and inevitably, a forbidden spiral of carnal attraction that threatens their careers and the security of America’s valuable mole in Moscow. Seeking revenge against her soulless masters, Dominika begins a fatal double life, recruited by the CIA to ferret out a high-level traitor in Washington; hunt down a Russian illegal buried deep in the U.S. military and, against all odds, to return to Moscow as the new-generation penetration of Putin’s intelligence service. Dominika and Nathaniel’s impossible love affair and twisted spy game come to a deadly conclusion in the shocking climax of this electrifying, up-to-the minute spy thriller.

Age of Satan: A Novella by James Lovegrove
1968. Guy Lucas, son a murdered British diplomat, is sent to an old-fashioned boarding school, where he is bullied and abused. A fellow student persuades him to perform a black mass and plead with Satan to intervene, with horrific consequences. For the next ten years, the shadow of Satan is cast across his life; he flees, across the sea and into obscurity, but tragedy follows him. Eventually, he must confront the Devil, and learn the truth about himself...

Blood Money by Doug Richardson
The disillusioned Marine’s plan seems simple enough: steal a refrigerated tractor trailer loaded with frozen blood product; drive the pirated cargo from Reno, Nevada to the Port of Long Beach; collect a million dollars. Yet even the most deliberate plans can go sideways. On his campaign south, the Marine’s “inner idiot” takes charge, leaving a smattering of dead bodies in his wake.

In the dark before dawn, a telephone rings. Kern County Sheriff’s detective Lucas “Lucky” Dey, no stranger to being awakened with bad news, answers the call. But this time, the voice on the phone tells Lucky that his ill-fated younger brother has been gunned down on a blackened desolate highway.

As Lucky chases the former Marine and his black semi-rig into the bowels of Los Angeles, he’s thrust into a landscape of competing agendas. Conrad Ellis, the multi-millionaire entertainment mogul, demands justice for the murder of his starlet daughter. Ambitious federal attorney Lilly Zoller is determined to turn any opportunity into her personal spotlight. Rey Palomino, the morally-challenged contractor, colludes with the former Marine hoping to crawl out from under a crushing debt. LAPD detective and dedicated single mom Lydia “Gonzo” Gonzales, reluctantly accepts her assignment to “babysit” the unrestrained Kern County detective hell-bent on avenging his brother’s death at any cost.

A knee-breaking private detective, some unwitting feds, and a coterie of gang-busting L.A. Sheriffs deputies further complicate the scenario and round out the cast of characters in this explosive and unpredictable thrill ride.

As for what I'm reading, I'm juggling a hardcover, a paperback ARC, and my e-reader . . .


What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Cover Reveal: Writers Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy

For Immediate Release
January 25, 2013

Writers Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy Cover Revealed

Seventh Star Press is proud to reveal the new cover created by award-winning artist Matthew Perry for the upcoming release of the Writers Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Developed by Bram Stoker Award-winning editor Michael Knost, the Writers Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy is a treasure trove for writers of all levels looking to develop their craft in the speculative fiction genres.  Featuring contributions from several of the best speculative fiction authors in the world such as Neil Gaiman, Orson Scott Card, Harry Turtledove, James Gunn, Alan Dean Foster, Ursula K. Le Guin, Joe Haldeman, Kevin J. Anderson, Tim Powers, Mike Resnick, and many, many more, the book features a wealth of essays and interviews focusing on the writing craft as it pertains to the genres of fantasy and science fiction.

Slated for a late February release in eBook and a trade paperback release following soon after, the Writers Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy will be an important contribution to the speculative fiction literary community.  Whether just beginning a writing journey or extensively published, writers of all degrees of experience are certain to find this book to be an invaluable reference source.

For further information on the Seventh Star Press and its titles such as the Writers Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy, please visit www.seventhstarpress.com

Contact: C.C. James
Public Relations, Seventh Star Press
ccjames (at) seventhstarpress.com

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan (REVIEW)

Well, it's been 20+ years, 14 books, and somewhere shy of 15,000 pages, with Brandon Sanderson stepping in to finish what Robert Jordan began. I'll do my best to avoid spoilers, but it's hard to talk about A Memory of Light without at least acknowledging a few contributions . . . and sacrifices.

The first 200 or so pages were pretty gripping, but after that it started to wear thin. There was a lot of talking and a lot of waiting for the end, with one battle scene after another filling space. I get what Sanderson was trying to convey, and I realize he had to establish the overwhelming odds, but I will admit I started skimming through all the skirmishes with Trollocs. By the time I hit the halfway mark, my reading pace really began to slow, and I found myself struggling to get through.

Having said that, there were some interesting bits, and some moments that genuinely made me smile. Still, it really did feel like a lot of talking and waiting. Nevertheless, I was determined to persevere. It was around the 600 page mark that I began to see some glimmers of hope. I quite liked the role that Mat found himself thrust into (once he was finally allowed to make a long-overdue appearance); the appearance of the Ogier on the battlefront was something to behold; and the arrival of the Asha'man certainly kicked up the carnage a notch; but the battle scenes really began to feel like a lot of padding. For such a battle-heavy book, I found myself surprised by the lack of 'big' deaths, so deep into the tale. Given the overall carnage, and the simple fact that leaders and heroes should be prime targets, it' did push the bounds of plausibility just a bit.

Coming into the last 200 pages, things certainly picked up. The pacing got better, there was a significance to the plot developments, and Sanderson finally pulled the strings on some 'big' sacrifices. Elayne and Egwene both stepped it up, earning their role as equals of Rand, and it was immensely satisfying to see the forces of Light come up with a weave to challenge balefire. Min's role was a little less spectacular, but still with some notable contributions, and Aviendha ultimately had a worthy role to play, despite seemingly being pushed out of the spotlight. Tuon's role was a bit smaller than I expected, but her off-the-page contributions to Mat's planning were indeed crucial to the climax.

More than anything, though, I found myself lamenting the absence of Rand. I really did expect him to be more of a . . . well, hero. Instead, after some touching goodbyes, he spends the last half of the book stuck in a cave and swapping dreamscapes with his enemy. Some of the futures they explored were interesting, but dispensed with too quickly to have any real impact. Again, I get what Sanderson was doing, and I ultimately appreciated Rand's master gameplan, once it was exposed, but it took 850+ pages to get there. I understand it's an ensemble story, and I appreciate that Sanderson was left with a lot of loose ends, but some scenes were just frivolous. Sure, most of the characters had strong roles to play, but others seemed to be given a token scene or two just to get their names into the book.

As much as I enjoyed the first 2 books of the final trilogy, and really appreciate how well Sanderson has managed the legacy, the story was stretched a bit thin. We all know Jordan intended for there to be one last book to end the series, and that Sanderson expanded those notes into a trilogy, but I wonder how much of that decision was creative, and how much of it was sheer marketing. While packing everything into one book might have been a bit rough, I think a two-book conclusion would have better served readers who waited so long for satisfaction.

I am glad we got an ending, and I am entirely satisfied with Rand's final solution . . . I just wish we hadn't had to wade through so many Trolloc heads to get there.

Published January 8th 2013 by Tor Books
Hardcover, 909 pages

The Summoner by Layton Green (REVIEW)

With The Summoner, Layton Green introduces us to Dominic Grey, a Diplomatic Security special agent with a flair for unearthing dangerous religious cults. His story begins with the disappearance of a US diplomat during a Zimbabwe religious ceremony, but quickly gets darker, stranger, and more sinister with the secrets he uncovers.

Part mystery, adventure, and thriller, this is an exciting tale that grabs hold of the reader early on and refuses to let go. The physical descriptions of Zimbabwe are absolutely stunning, creating a unique setting that lends itself very well to the atmosphere of magic and mystery that Green has crafted. There are political, cultural, and religious elements to the story, all of which are so carefully blended that the glimpses of the supernatural are impossible to simply disregard. Early on, I knew the book could go either of two ways, with one leading to my DNF pile, and the other leading me here, to an enthusiastic review and recommendation.

Green's story is well-paced, with a generous amount of background information that never gets in the way of moving the story forward. Dominic Grey is an interesting protagonist, a little hard to warm up personally, but strong enough to entrust with carrying the rather ambitious plot. Fortunately, his partner/colleague, Professor Viktor Radek, provides more of a human element, allowing the reader to find an emotional attachment to the tale. It's not a pretty tale, and readers who are at all squeamish may find themselves tempted to skip certain passages, but it's a temptation that must be denied in order to fully appreciate the significance of Grey's work.

There were a few twists that I saw coming, and a few surprises that fell a little flat, but for the most part I was pleased with how things developed. Even when he truly surprised me, I never felt cheated or betrayed by the changes in direction. I was a bit concerned about how the story would end, especially since Grey's role in carrying the franchise erased any possibility of real danger, but the climax here really works.

As a self-contained story, the book works well enough to satisfy readers looking for something a bit different, but it certainly leaves a lot of potential for the books to follow. Given that it's the second book, The Egyptian, that originally caught my eye - I really only read this one because my OCD prevents me from jumping into the middle of a series - I was thoroughly relieved to find myself wanting more at the end.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Don't Be a Hero by Chris Strange (REVIEW)

As a teenager, I probably spent more time in comic books stores than was wise, and certainly spent far more money there than I care to remember. I witnessed the rise of of superstars like Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee, enjoyed Tim Burton's stunning cinematic rebirth of Batman on the big screen, and suffered through Sidney J. Furie's death-blow to the Superman franchise on VHS. I saw comic books stores explode across North America . . . and then slowly die of attrition a the 'coolness' factor of comic books waned once again.

While I stepped away from the comic book world when the reboots and restarts made it clear the writers had run out of stories, I never lost my love of superheroes. As a result, I'm always on the lookout for new books that feature superhero themes. They're generally hit-or-miss, but Don't Be a Hero is definitely more hit than miss. From the writing style, to the characters, to the storyline, to the dialogue, it's clear Chris Strange has not just a love for the genre, but an understanding for what makes it work.

Yes, it's derivative and cliched at times, but honestly so. Strange wears his superhero cape proudly, and tells precisely the kind of story you might expect. Simultaneously, it's also daring and original at times, with some rather unique touches that undeniably make the story his. Rather than reuse another nameless, faceless, booming North American metropolis, he transplants us to the streets of New Zealand, giving us a setting that's familiar, but which has room for invention. It's a world where mankind has made it to the Moon, establishing a colony for unwanted superheroes, but still gets by with steampunk-ish technology.

Similarly, he resists the urge to go with either the 'super' masculine or the endearingly geeky hero, giving us instead a lesbian superhero - one who's disillusioned and cynical, but otherwise quite ordinary. Heck, there's even a sidekick with the corny "guess my power" name of Carpenter, but he provides a nice balance to Spook. As for the villain of the story, he's very well-crafted, a character who serves as both a worthy foil and source of tangible menace - and who, it must be said, has some memorable henchmen. Strange clearly understands that at the heart of every great superhero tale is that balance . . . that conflict . . . that dichotomy of good versus evil. Without a worthy adversary, even the greatest superhero is just an impressive guy (or gal) in tights, and Quanta certainly helps to make Spook matter.

After a pair of superhero-themed novels that I left unfinished last year, and another pair that I quite enjoyed, I was curious to see how Strange would tilt the balance. Fortunately, this is another story that I quite enjoyed, and one that has me anxious to see what he'll do next. Not only does he keep superheroes cool, he makes then fun again.

Waiting On Wednesday - Red Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Red Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer
March 26, 2013

Robert J. Sawyer, the author of such “revelatory and thought-provoking” novels as Triggers and The WWW Trilogy, presents a noir mystery expanded from his Hugo and Nebula Award-nominated novella “Identity Theft” and his Aurora Award-winning short story “Biding Time,” and set on a lawless Mars in a future where everything is cheap, and life is even cheaper…

Alex Lomax is the one and only private eye working the mean streets of New Klondike, the Martian frontier town that sprang up forty years ago after Simon Weingarten and Denny O’Reilly discovered fossils on the Red Planet. Back on Earth, where anything can be synthesized, the remains of alien life are the most valuable of all collectibles, so shiploads of desperate treasure hunters stampeded to Mars in the Great Martian Fossil Rush.

Trying to make an honest buck in a dishonest world, Lomax tracks down killers and kidnappers among the failed prospectors, corrupt cops, and a growing population of transfers—lucky stiffs who, after striking paleontological gold, upload their minds into immortal android bodies. But when he uncovers clues to solving the decades-old murders of Weingarten and O’Reilly, along with a journal that may lead to their legendary mother lode of Martian fossils, God only knows what he’ll dig up...

Much to my chagrin, I have yet to give my fellow Canuck (and sci-fi legend a read). I have a half dozen of his books on my shelf, waiting to be read; am well aware of his cinematic influence; and have very fond memories of his appearances with Commander Rick on Prisoners of Gravity. This year, I am determined to give him a shot, and Red Planet Blues sounds like a great place to start.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What writing technique of yours are you most proud of? by Michael Meyer (author of Covert Dreams)

One technique that I am particularly proud of is summed up by one of the many readers who have left reviews on my Amazon website: “One last point: at the end of most of the chapters the author used an unusual and effective technique that really won my respect. I felt I was in the hands of a master. Terrific book. I would recommend it to anyone.” This particular review really had an effect on me since I had worked extremely hard to perfect this specific technique. Since COVERT DREAMS has two alternating stories that are linked in a horrifying way at the end, I wanted to keep the reader in suspense the entire journey. I especially wanted to ensure that this would be a page-turner. So what I did was to link each chapter together with endings that would titillate the reader, making one want to hurry on to see what was going to happen next.

COVERT DREAMS is set primarily in Munich and in Saudi Arabia, both places that I know very well. The locales I have drawn are authentic. The research I did to ensure that the settings are all real came from my own personal observations. I was a student in Germany, and I have probably traveled to Munich on fifteen separate occasions. I know the city like I know my own hometown. In addition, I was a professor at a university in Saudi Arabia, and I traveled extensively throughout the country, which I also know quite intimately. So what I had to do was to somehow link these two extreme cultural entities, the Bavarian ebullient nature and the Arabian ultra religious culture. What I finally came up with, after lots of thought, hard work, and many rewrites was to add an intriguing link between Munich and Saudi Arabia at the end of most chapters.

One of the two alternating stories mainly takes place in Munich, Germany, where a man who has been haunted recently by a series of lifelike nightmares is frantically trying to discover what is real, and who is who. The second story takes place in Saudi Arabia, where an American professor is frantically searching for his wife, whose very existence has disappeared. The first time I used this technique of linking the two alternating threads together to add suspense was at the end of the first chapter: “Time, gradually becoming their enemy, did a flip-flop, and the now became the then, dying, giving birth to what lay ahead, way beyond the present, biding its own good time, in total control, much like a German panzer unit moving across The Netherlands. Just like the power of Allah under the hot Saudi Arabian sun.”

One other example of my using this technique comes at the end of a later chapter: “Then it happened. They were both emotionally wrought, and the fear was evident in the way in which they clutched one another, neither of them wanting to ever let go, the table—their whole world, in fact—shaking, much like a beer barrel polka in a boisterous Munich beer garden—or a sandstorm in the lonely Saudi Arabian desert.”

I am delighted that my readers have found this technique of mine effective because I can tell you that I spent a lot of time making sure that the wording in each chapter ending of COVERTDREAMS was as strong as it could be.



About the Book
Imagine waking up remembering intimate details about a country in which you have never traveled and fluently speaking a language that you have never spoken. B.J. is living the ideal life. He has a great wife, a wonderful job. And yet he is experiencing life-like vivid dreams of Munich, a city he has never visited.

Stan Halsey is a professor in Saudi Arabia, who sends for his wife to join him. She arrives, and, in the blink of an eye, she vanishes, leaving no trace of ever being alive in either the United States or in Saudi Arabia.

COVERT DREAMS is a fast-paced international suspense thriller that moves from Munich to the burning sands of Saudi Arabia. What is real, and who is responsible for the terrifying nightmare?


About the Author
I have resided in and have visited many places in the world, all of which have contributed in some way to my own published writing. I have literally traveled throughout the world, on numerous occasions. I have lived in Finland, Germany, Thailand, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Saudi Arabia, where COVERT DREAMS is set. I gained the wanderlust to see the world, to experience other cultures, at an early age, and this desire has never left me. If anything, it has only gained in intensity as I have aged. I try to travel internationally at least once a year. In the interim, I spend lots of time traveling around both my home state of California and other nearby states.

I spent my early years in the small town of Lone Pine, California, the home of almost every western movie, in addition to a wide variety of other genres, made in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. In fact, Hollywood still films parts of big-time movies there today. My dad, the town’s lifeguard at the time, personally knew John Wayne, Lloyd Bridges, and Lee Marvin, all of whom came to the town’s pool, the Memorial Plunge, at times to cool off after a hectic day of working in the sun. I was even an extra in a movie filmed there in 1957, MONOLITH MONSTERS, a B-cult favorite even today. I was ten years old at the time. Even though I resided in a small town hours from the big city, I was exposed to the excitement of action and heroes at a formative age, and, thus, my interest in writing novels of suspense such as COVERT DREAMS was born.

As a recent retiree from a forty-year career as a professor of writing, I now live in Southern California wine country with my wife, Kitty, and our two other cats.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

An Interview with Robert Pinsky

Robert Pinsky (born October 20, 1940) is an American poet, essayist, literary critic, and translator. From 1997 to 2000, he served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Pinsky is the author of nineteen books, most of which are collections of his own poetry. His published work also includes critically acclaimed translations, including The Inferno of Dante Alighieri and The Separate Notebooks by Czesław Miłosz. He teaches at Boston University and is the poetry editor at Slate. He has numerous awards for his poetry and translations.

As a follow-up to his reviews, Donald was fortunate to engage Robert Pinsky in a brief interview about his work . . .

Donald: Is poetry your favorite to write or is it translations?

Robert: The way I do translation the goal is poetry. To make the work a poem in English.

Donald: What is your mood setter to get into your writing mode?

Robert: Impatience, irritation with my own disorder or confusion.

Donald: What do you teach at Boston University?

Robert: Poetry. Next year, Norton will publish my book Singing School. The subtitle is: "Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying the Masters." That's what I teach.

Donald: Gulf Music is one of my favorites of your collected poetry works. What was the inspiration behind this book.

Robert: The doings and derelictions of the George W. Bush administration in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Mexico. My anger inspired me to approach such things not in an editorial way, but somehow in a poetic way, and in light of history and personal history.

Donald: What is some of your favorite books and authors?

Robert: Ben Jonson, Willa Cather, Isaac Babel, Nikolai Gogol, John Keats, Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, Wiliam Carlos Williams. Emily Dickinson, Charles Dickens, Homer. (I take a guilty pleasure in the Rieux prose translation of the Odyssey).

Donald: As a writer myself in the beginning stages and to all the others out there. What's your advice to us all.

Robert: When you find a piece of writing you admire and would like to emulate, type it up. Memorize all or part of it. Keep a computer file (maybe called "Anthology" or "Guides") of such examples.

Donald: Regarding the poem "The City Dark", which inspired me to write a novella, what is the meaning behind it?

Robert: The meaning is not behind the poem, but in it. The city dark is different from, and similar too, the rural or suburban dark. It is different from, and similar too, its partner, the city light.

Donald: I am a man of humor, always looking for a great laugh. Tell our readers something funny, life experience, joke or just make us laugh.

Robert: My jokes tend to be vocal. For me, comedy is like poetry, it needs to be vocal. I lack the Lewis Carroll or Dodgson or Thurber gift of funny writing. So I'll quote an epigram by J.V. Cunningham:

This Humanist, whom no belief constrained,
Grew so broad-minded, he was scatter-brained.

Donald: What is next for Robert Pinsky in the world of writing?

Robert: Tonight, the great pianist Laurence Hobgood and I will perform from our PoemJazz CD (http://circumstantial.us/) at le Poisson Rouge, which thrillingly, for me, is the old Village Gate. This Spring, the actors at the Shakespeare Theater in D.C. will perform my free adaptation of Schiller's Wallenstein, in repertory with Coriolanus. I've already mentioned Singing School. And another book of poems is taking shape.

Many thanks to Robert for taking the time to sit down and chat with Donald!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Stacking The Shelves & What I'm Reading

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme being hosted by Tynga's Reviews, while Mailbox Monday is being hosted by Lori's Reading Corner this month (see Mailbox Monday for each month's host). Both memes are all about sharing the books you've added to your shelves - physical and virtual, borrowed and bought. It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey, and it's focused on what's in your hands, as opposed to what's on your shelf.

A trio of ARCs this week, as well as a pair of purchases:

Black Feathers by Joseph D' Lacey
Black Feathers is a modern fantasy set in two epochs: the Black Dawn, a time of environmental apocalypse, and generations into the future in its aftermath, the Bright Day.

In each era, a child undertakes a perilous journey to find a dark messiah known as The Crowman. In their hands lies the fate of the planet as they attempt to discover whether The Crowman is our saviour… or the final incarnation of evil.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Stuff of Dreams by James Swallow
The Enterprise-E arrives in unclaimed space for a rendezvous with the Starfleet science vessel Newton. Jean-Luc Picard and his crew have been ordered to assist the Newton with the final phase of its current mission - a mission that brings Picard face to face with something he never thought he would see again, the phenomenon known as the Nexus. Less than twelve years after it left the Alpha Quadrant, the Nexus ribbon has now returned. 

Tasked to track and study the phenomenon as it re-entered the galaxy, the specialist science team on the Newton discovered that the orbital path of the Nexus has been radically altered by the actions of the rogue El-Aurian Tolian Soren - taking it deep into the territory of The Holy Order of the Kinshaya, one of the key members of the Typhon Pact. Starfleet Command is unwilling to allow Kinshaya - and, by extension, The Typhon Pact - free access to what is essentially a gateway to anywhere and anywhen, as a single operative could use the Nexus to change the course of galactic history . . .

The Daylight War: Book Three of The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett
With The Warded Man and The Desert Spear, Peter V. Brett surged to the front rank of contemporary fantasy, standing alongside giants in the field such as George R. R. Martin, Robert Jordan, and Terry Brooks. The Daylight War, the eagerly anticipated third volume in Brett’s internationally bestselling Demon Cycle, continues the epic tale of humanity’s last stand against an army of demons that rise each night to prey on mankind.

On the night of the new moon, the demons rise in force, seeking the deaths of two men, both of whom have the potential to become the fabled Deliverer, the man prophesied to reunite the scattered remnants of humanity in a final push to destroy the demon corelings once and for all.

Arlen Bales was once an ordinary man, but now he has become something more—the Warded Man, tattooed with eldritch wards so powerful they make him a match for any demon. Arlen denies he is the Deliverer at every turn, but the more he tries to be one with the common folk, the more fervently they believe. Many would follow him, but Arlen’s path threatens to lead to a dark place he alone can travel to, and from which there may be no returning.

The only one with hope of keeping Arlen in the world of men, or joining him in his descent into the world of demons, is Renna Tanner, a fierce young woman in danger of losing herself to the power of demon magic.

Ahmann Jardir has forged the warlike desert tribes of Krasia into a demon-killing army and proclaimed himself Shar’Dama Ka, the Deliverer. He carries ancient weapons—a spear and a crown—that give credence to his claim, and already vast swaths of the green lands bow to his control.

But Jardir did not come to power on his own. His rise was engineered by his First Wife, Inevera, a cunning and powerful priestess whose formidable demon bone magic gives her the ability to glimpse the future. Inevera’s motives and past are shrouded in mystery, and even Jardir does not entirely trust her.

Once Arlen and Jardir were as close as brothers. Now they are the bitterest of rivals. As humanity’s enemies rise, the only two men capable of defeating them are divided against each other by the most deadly demons of all—those lurking in the human heart.

Fake Girls by Matthew Sloan
IT'S TEN P.M. DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE? Molloy is a problem-solver. For a price, he'll find anyone-or help you hide from anyone. Too bad he can't fix any of his own problems. He's already turned down his latest job offer, but Mr. Knott is the kind of client who won't take 'no' for an answer. Or, rather, it's Mr. Knott's boss who refuses to be denied. They want Molloy to find a missing woman named Nada Klone before a psychotic killer, an insanely jealous husband, and the world's most powerful secret organization finds her first. Mobsters, X-rated internet entrepreneurs, rogue government agents-they all seem to be searching for Nada Klone. There's only one problem: she doesn't exist. A rollicking adventure into the mysteries of love, sex, murder, and identity, FAKE GIRLS is a novel that's never quite what it seems. But, then, what is?

IN SITU edited by Carrie Cuinn
From independent publisher Dagan Books, IN SITU is a new anthology of science fiction stories featuring alien archeology, hidden mysteries, and things that are better off left buried. 

A quiet man finds more than he bargained for when he sets out with his metal detector on a lonely hill ... A soldier meets a new kind of enemy fighting an altogether different kind of war ... On a distant swamp planet, a woman questions what kind of human she's becoming ... a pregnant archeologist finds a connection with a long-dead alien child ... while deep space scavengers wonder what it ever meant to be human at all. 

These fifteen evocative science fiction stories will take you from dusty archaeologists digging up our alien past into a distant future where we've become the relics. Thought-provoking and entertaining, IN SITU explores science, theology, preservation, and the art of alien finance, in a whole new way. 

Edited by Carrie Cuinn. Contains stories by Ken Liu, KV Taylor, Paul A. Dixon, Bear Weiter, Mae Empson, Jason Andrew, Greg Burch, Sarah Hendrix, R.S. Hunter, Rebecca Lloyd, Alex Shvartsman, Kelly C. Stiles, Graham Storrs, David J. West, and Dawn Vogel.

As for what I'm reading, I'm juggling a hardcover, a paperback ARC, and my e-reader . . .


What's topping your shelves this week?