Review: The Gates

Posted: June 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

The Gates
The Gates by John Connolly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Terrific Demonic Fun

In which young Samuel Johnson (no, not that Samuel Johnson) takes on the demonic hordes of Hell with the aid of his dachshund, Boswell…

John Connolly is a pro when it comes to dark whimsy, or whimsical darkness…or whatever.

The Gates is no exception. Pure demonic fun from start to finish. It may not always be (as some reviews state) “laugh out loud funny”, but you will find yourself chuckling merrily more often than not. And Connolly’s footnotes are a delight, as are the multiple literary allusions to past horror masters (streets named after Poe, August Derleth, even Aleister Crowley).

Fans of British humorists Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett will not be disappointed.

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Review: To Sleep Gently

Posted: May 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

To Sleep Gently
To Sleep Gently by Trent Zelazny
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*** Zelazny Wins Again ***

Trent Zelazny’s gift is a little frightening. The highest praise I can lavish on any writer is to admit that I cannot say why he is so good from a technical standpoint. Zelazny’s skill lies in the ability to make his presence as an author damn near invisible. We are not reading, we are witnessing.

With To Sleep Gently he offers up what seems to be a simple caper story with noir undertones. Our hero is Jack Dempster, a career criminal fresh out of the joint who is immediately roped into a heist. Of course the heist is a near sure thing, and of course things fall apart. None of these plot elements is anything new. But as with all Zelazny’s works the story is not about what it’s about. The ill-advised theft and the bumbling crew are set dressing for what Trent Zelazny really wants to tell you, and that’s how life is not always a friendly mistress. The author also has something to say about the past and how a decades-old indiscretion can haunt you forever.

There is so much depth here, so much pure, gut-wrenching angst. Which simply means this is one more in a long line of brilliantly executed stories for Trent Zelazny. He is, as always, writing at the top of his form.

Read his work. Everything you can find. With Zelazny, it’s all A game. If he has a B game, I haven’t found it yet.

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Review: Carnival Freak

Posted: February 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

Carnival Freak
Carnival Freak by Billie Sue Mosiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Cautionary Carnival Ride

Yowsa (this is a technical term describing the visceral reaction to a piece of fiction that reaches up from the page and smacks you in the face…repeatedly).

Billie Sue Mosiman is a wicked, wicked writer. She sets up the reader beautifully, even as the carnival barker sets up those few guests willing to take that ill-advised step from relative light into unknown darkness—where they have been warned they might not want to go. Down that long dark hall where the real freaks are waiting.

Of course the question is always the same: Who ARE the real freaks?

This story, as with all really good short fiction, has a twist (and what a deliciously mean twist it is), but it works beautifully without it…which is also the mark of truly fine short fiction.

This was my first Mosiman tale. It will not be last. Bravo.

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Review: Enoch’s Devil

Posted: February 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

Enoch's Devil
Enoch’s Devil by Suzi M
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Lighthearted Toe-Curler

Enoch’s Devil is one twisted little tale.

Suzi M has knocked out a tasty treat for Lovecraft fans, as well as those with a darker, biblical mythology fetish.

This is a quick, one-sitting read that manages to be almost cute while still making the reader squirm.

Well done.

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This Man I Call Dad

Posted: December 17, 2013 in Random Rumis

This man I call Dad.

This man is Omer Gwen Reaves, born 9-24-31 in Lloyd, Arkansas.

Humble beginnings for an exceedingly humble man.

I call him Dad, sometimes Pop.  And I will always call him the most gentle and tender-hearted man I have ever known.

December of 2013, this man I call Dad was diagnosed with Mesothelioma.  Cancer.  Incurable and virtually untreatable.

In the early ‘Sixties this man served his country on the U.S.S. New Jersey.  His service came after the Korean war, and just narrowly ahead of the Vietnam war.  You could say he dodged a bullet.

Point of fact: One of Mesothelioma’s main cause seems to be exposure to asbestos.  Asbestos exposure is common among servicemen aboard ship.

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Some bullets you just don’t see coming.  Some bullets can find you 50 years later.

That silent gun was fired, and the damage has been done.  This man I call Dad is still here, serving his time, serving his country, serving his God.

Everything I know about love and life and music I learned from my dad.

Many of my childhood summers were spent traversing our nation’s roads in a camper as we journeyed from one country church to another, where my folks would set up their limited equipment and sing about that “some glad morning” when they would “fly away, oh glory.”  My dad sang of Too Much to Gain to Lose; how “somewhere up ahead there’s cool clear water, and defeat is one word I don’t use.”

From an early age Dad showed me harmony, in his music and in his relationship with my mom.  By his simple easy presence he inspired harmony and calm in our family.

This man.  Soft-spoken, mild-mannered, slow to anger and quick to lend a hand or offer a smile.

If I am a good father, I owe it to Dad.  If I am a good husband, I owe it to Dad.  Anything I have achieved as a writer or musician I owe to my Pop.  If I am any degree of man at all…I can only point back to my dad.

This man, whose tongue lay still more often than not, has the heart of a poet.  From his writings:

SERENTIY (an excerpt)

~ I looked upon a scene so grand

Nothing moved across the land

But somewhere out there hid from view

Was life so full yet ever new

Low clouds had overhung the sky

Almost no breeze at all passed by

Then as I looked and listened long

The silent Nature breathed a song

My heart once troubled felt relief

The years of toil seemed oh so brief

Within my soul there welled a song

Almost, I thought, there is no wrong

Then I was made to understand

As I touched Nature with my hand

The mighty tree that stood alone

Was strong because the wind had blown

I would not know if I could win

Were there no trial without, within

For even as the mighty tree

Without the storm I’d weaker be

Within my heart now lifted more

I felt a song unknown before

At first a bubbling melody

Then words burst forth in victory ~

We don’t know (and the doctors can only guess) how much time my dad has left.

The world is richer for his step upon its skin, and will be poorer for his absence.

Low clouds had overhung the sky

Indeed.

As we count the months, and eventually the days, it becomes ever clearer that this man I call Dad is near his final gate.

Stormy waters in this life come rage around me every day
But I am near the gate
No evil fate can come and tempt me off the straight and narrow way
For I am near the gate

I’m near the gate that leads to glory
That narrow way I’m passing through
A band of angels stand to greet me
I am near the gate
.  ~ Shawn Lane

I’ll take your hand, Dad, and we’ll walk together to that gate.  But not too soon.

First, another song or two, okay?

VLUU L210  / Samsung L210

Review: Revival House

Posted: November 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

Revival House
Revival House by S.S. Michaels
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First, to soothe my conscience: I don’t like giving 3-Star reviews. There needs to be a 3.50. Or, in this case, let us say, a 3.827.

I hope that clears things up a bit.
Someone described S.S. Michaels’s Revival House to me as “a corker.” It certainly is that. I would describe it as a light-hearted, Grand Guignol B-Movie. Think Quentin Tarentino meets Christopher Moore.

I must steer clear of details because much of this story’s magic depends on surprise. I wouldn’t dream of ruining that. The only real issue I had (and why I couldn’t quite notch it up to 4 stars) is that some of the surprises were not terribly surprising.

But, and this is a considerable but: I’m not convinced that Michaels intended the surprises to be surprises. I suspect the author was thinking: “Yes, what you think is happening might be what’s happening. You’re safe to assume such and you may continue on, turning pages, a little closer now…closer.”

Said the spider to the fly.

Who’s on first? I don’t know. No, he’s on second base.

Guess away as you turn the pages. You may guess correctly, but you will not be disappointed if you do. This is a pure, balls-out, rollicking good time.

Wear your safety goggles and glove up. You’re gonna get messy.

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Review: People Person

Posted: September 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

people person
People Person by Trent Zelazny
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

** A Wink and A Shiv ***

Don’t turn your back on Trent Zelazny…ever. The boy just doesn’t play fair.

His latest offering (to my knowledge) is People Person—a nasty little slice of business that you will read in one sitting, right before taking a long walk to clear your head…and try to avoid watching the neighbors, whether or not you consider yourself a people person.

Jeffrey Carlisle is a people person, and a heck of a nice guy. The story opens with Jeff staring into an empty ditch, looking for clues as to the whereabouts of his long-missing sister Jessica. The ditch is as empty as Jeffrey, offering no solace or respite from a life steeped in almost mind-numbing drudgery.

There’s not a lot I can tell you about this story without spoiling it—it’s a novella and what transpires in these few pages happens at once slowly and quickly. In many ways nothing at all happens…until it does, until you are comfortably pacified.

But here’s the thing: Zelazny somehow manages to make the mundane compelling, which may be the ultimate testament to his brilliance. That’s a rare gift. Show us a man repeating the same scenario over and over, walking around his kitchen, peeking out at the neighbors…and make it riveting?

There is of course more to this story than a lost man’s boredom and aimlessness, much more. But it is our duty to live with Carlisle—to feel his loss, to wander lonely stretches of road, to wonder why bad things happen to good people. We must walk a mile in his shoes, and as the story unfolds try to deny how well those shoes fit our own feet.

Bravo, Mr. Zelazny. Again.

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It takes a while for one to claw through the hurricane to its eye, but I’ve managed to turn the trick.  It’s something of a coup that I have dragged Mark Leftridge into Mott’s Ruminations for an interview.

Mr. Leftridge is one of the most all-around talented people I’ve had the pleasure to meet.  He is among the finest drummers currently smacking the skins, but that’s just for starters.  He writes and teaches all styles of music at all levels.  He’s never met an instrument he couldn’t coax into melody…and now the bastard is writing books.  Well, not so much now as repeatedly.  If my count is correct he’s currently slinging words into novel #5.

Some people just don’t know when to quit.  But enough of me, let’s get to it.

Mark, let’s start with an easy one.  How did you get into writing?

Quite by accident I’m afraid.  I was working on song lyrics, on a cold October evening in 1992 and I had written the line “They hadn’t seen the sun in 27 days.”  I liked the imagery it sparked in my mind, but I had no follow up line.  I had read of a songwriter’s trick that said, to write about the line, then glean from your paragraph your intent.  Paragraphs became pages and pages became chapters and 65,000 words later I had written The Bachnahl Corridor.

mark-leftridge-musician-drummer-author-The-Bachnahl-Corridor

What is your first piece of work to be released?

A Tangled Web We Weave was released last year (my latest).

mark-leftridge-musician-drummer-author-A-Tangled-Web-We-Weave

What would you consider your greatest accomplishment?

Loaded question to be sure, but since it’s a Writer’s Blog, I’ll say this, and oddly enough, it happened just recently.  I began writing in 1992, but it wasn’t until a couple of months ago that I discovered WHY I write.  That answer, to that question, was a truly significant moment.  Has nothing to do with career goals, money or professional success – it’s just one of those priceless epiphanies that reveal themselves so rarely on the road through life.

Can you describe that feeling?

Writing has been part of my life for the last 20 years of my life and the four novels that I have written had always seemed completely strange and different from each other, yet I was compelled to tell them.  I’ve learned that each book was me trying to solve or make peace with things in my life at the time as I was moving through life.  To re-read my books in the knowledge that my first [The Bachnal Corridor] was about my awareness of politics and its place in my world, then Parenthood in my second [When the Hangman Weeps], the end of my Rock band (the year I turned 30) in the third [Safe Sects], and this latest book [A Tangled Web We Weave] was my thoughts on what makes a friendship.  Suddenly the book jacket descriptions, that have NOTHING to do with my epiphany, have a theme.  The books follow my life and the things that I was sorting out at the time – a truly amazing diary where characters question me and push me to answer the hard questions.  It was all so innocent as a story, a book, a novel, but such an open and honest look into a person I once was.

What about your current (or most recent, as applicable) work stands out as compared to what came before it?

I’ve been scuffling with the word Legacy as of late.  I come out swinging this time, rather than couching it in some technological thriller like A Tangled Web We Weave or even Safe Sects to a degree, this is about a family and their history and making peace with the imperfections of that.

(if WIP) Can you share some of it with us?

Sure.  Here you go:

“You working in the studio, uncle Todd?” asked Evan as he watched his uncle’s eyes return to focus on him in the here and now.

        “Well, I’m in the studio, but work doesn’t seem to be getting done.”    “What are you working on?”

        “I was up all night with a chord progression and a melody in my head, but I can’t get it to lay down on tape – digitally speaking.” He inhaled then exhaled loudly, rubbing his tired eyes with his calloused hands. Stopping suddenly as an idea landed from the ephemeral cloud swirling in his sleep-deprived head. “Evan, could you come in and see what you can do with it? I can’t get the feel, I’m out of ideas.”

        The boy’s eyes widened, “Shouldn’t you get my dad or grandpa?”

        “Oh I know what they would do with it after all these years of working with or around them, but this is different. I want something else on this. C’mon, give it a try kid, I’m desperate.”

        Evan took his seat behind the kit steadying his headphones as his uncle sat behind the glass of the control room setting up for the session.

        “So I’m thinking I’m gonna try and catch lightening in a bottle. The click is at 140 beats per minute, come right in on the very first beat. I’m playing even eighth notes, so it’s not shuffled or swung or anything. Ok?”

        Evan nodded to the voice in his headphones.

        “You’ll get two measures of click before you’re in.”

        Evan gave a thumbs up sign.

        “Alright, here we go then.”

        The computer-toned blip counted off the 8 beats, Evan’s bass drum and crash cymbal landed simultaneously on top of the opening chord. His recoiling eardrum chased the blip of the click-track into the chaos of a throbbing bass, distorted guitar and keyboard patches that chugged fiercely into the song. His brain was searching for the patterns, listening ahead in a way, to predict what lay just a few blips ahead. Find the rhythm, the syncopation of it and determine what of that pattern should he accentuate to establish the groove. He began to separate the unison parts, chasing the instruments that were panned throughout his headphones; bass, left of center, 6 string acoustic, right of center, a synth pad beyond that and an organ playing hard to the left. The organ part was voicing the chords differently, landing between the gaps of the rhythmic pattern; It wasn’t wrong per se, but it was pulling at the groove. Ignoring it he pressed on through the song. He was subtle in the verses, lifting the choruses, reacting to changes as they appeared. He had unlocked the string of chords and by the second verse had settled into the arrangement of them. The blip disappeared into the music as he listened to his performance in it, always the audience as well as the artist.

Do you feel that your writing style has changed at all since you began writing?

I hope so!

What do you think has bettered your skills? What do you think has hindered you?

I’m the worst guy to answer this question because I write, but I’m entirely self-taught.  I don’t study the craft, or do workshops or read with an eye on how I would do it better than the guy I’m reading.  I just do it, learning from the last one I wrote and improving on myself from the last.  The fact that people read my books and enjoy them is a bonus and I appreciate that they get me and what I’m trying to do in a novel.

As for hindrances, same answer as above.  90% of writing is re-writing? Screw that!  Next story. Make fewer mistakes next time.  I can’t suffer over a story for months or years, crawling over it comma by comma, line by line.  Plot holes I’ll fix, but punctuation and all the rest is my editor’s job.  That won’t be a popular answer among writers and authors that read your blog, but writing to me is an intensely selfish act that I suppose I take to extremes.

Which of your characters stands out the most to you, and why? (feel free to share an example)

4 novels – too many characters that I have deep feelings for and those feelings change daily.  Chris Mohr from When the Hangman Weeps is a stand out.  Though he’s just an 8 year-old boy he has the strength and insight of a wizened old man.

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Brett Peters from Safe Sects found a way out of his own smothering grief by trying to help someone else and the devotion of Thani Atiq from A Tangled Web We Weave is pretty incredible to me.

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Do you have a writing mantra?

Make it real.  Plot, Dialogue or Characters have to feel real to me and the information that they acquire in a story must be plausible.  No apparitions appearing, found lottery tickets etc. I leave that to Scooby Doo episodes.

Is writing your hobby or your job?

Both? Neither? Therapy seems a more appropriate term these days.

What do you do when you’re not creating the next masterpiece?

I’m a musician by trade and have enjoyed a 30+ year career that has taken me to many amazing places in the world and allowed me to meet many of my heroes.  I see myself as a drummer – a drummer who writes.

Do you like sports? (if so, which ones?)

I am a baseball devotee.  I watch as many as three games a day on a day off.  I have the fervor of a zealot for the game.  I watch Major League, Minor League, even Little League (there’s a park a block from my house); it makes no difference to me, I love the game like that.

Do you have a favorite musical artist? Who?

Rather than rattle off a lengthy list, I’ll simply say that Rush was/is the band that shaped me as a musician, a reader, a lyricist and a writer.

What book are you reading right now?

I just got the new Carlos Ruiz Zafon book, Prisoner of Heaven, and the Crichton novel that was finished by Richard Preston after his death.

When do you anticipate your next work to be released?

Our Bridges Made of Sticks should be released in time for Christmas 2013.

Where can we find you online?

www.markleftridge.com or Facebook of course, LinkedIn, Amazon, Smashwords, Google me if nothing else, I’m not hard to find – unless I owe you money!

* As a final note, Mark has just finished a jazz Christmas album with jazz guitarist Peter Morgan.  Check out Mark’s fine drum work here: California Christmas.

A huge thanks to Mark Leftridge for stopping by!

mark-leftridge-author-musician

Author Interview Special Edition – Trent Zelazny, American Writer.

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

Posted: November 9, 2012 in Blog Hops

Here comes Peter Cottontail, hoppin’ down the…wait, that can’t be right.

This is what we like to call a Blog Hop, wherein needy writers (like me) hop from one blog to another—sort of a “You scratch my blog, I’ll scratch yours” kind of thing.  We writers are a sociable lot and we very much enjoy poking our literary noses into others’ blogs and pages.

So, then…when Bruce Blake “tagged” me to take part in this here Bloggity Hoppity Thingy, I was more than happy to join.  This particular Hop is rumored to have started over at She Writes.

The idea is to tag the person who tagged you (in my case, Bruce Blake), answer a few questions about your Work In Progress, then tag a handful of other writers to go and do likewise.  My list of tagees at the end is a bit anemic—I found exactly one blogger not too scared to join me.  But enough of that.  On to the questions and their answers.

 *   *   *

 A Dime Bag of Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:

 1. What is the working title of your book?

Kimberlina…or Searching for Kimberlina…or Saving Kimberlina…or maybe something entirely different.  It’s in progress, so who knows?  All I know for sure, is she’s watching…and she sees you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

Funny story.  A road sign.  A simple sign on the freeway pointing to an off-ramp for a street with a young girl’s name.  By the end of this hours-long road trip, that girl’s name had turned into what feels like could be an epic horror trilogy.  I don’t know how or why, and I’m afraid to ask.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Definitely horror with a heavy psychological/surreal bent, which would make it the first all-out full-length horror novel I’ve written.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Way too early to say, as the characters are still forming themselves and figuring out who and what they want to be.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Hmmm… “The past is full of secrets; secrets that refused to stay buried.”  That’s a bit cliché, but it’s the best I can do this early.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Self-published, same as my first three…unless of course an agent stumbles on my genius.  Ahem.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Still working on it.  First drafts usually take me a few months, depending on the length.  This one rattled around my head for the better part of a year before I ever put down a word.  I’m a little afraid of it.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Another tough one as this odd piece of fiction continues to redefine itself on the page.  Going by tone, I’d have to say Dan SimmonsA Winter Haunting.  Or maybe one of Ramsey Campbell’s earlier mind-twisters.

9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Again, this literally sprang at me out of the ether from a name on a road sign.  Never happened before, and likely won’t happen again.  Bizarre.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

If I can pull off some of the scarier scenes that have suggested themselves, I believe readers will actually jump in their chairs (which is very tough to do in fiction, as opposed to movies), and perhaps have to set the book down for a moment or two to regain composure.  This is my hope.  Oh…and there seem to be Lesbians in this story.  Yep, I was surprised, too.

 *   *   *

And that’s it.  If I tagged you, your blog post needs to go up between the Nov 14th – Nov 16th. Your Blog post should be labeled:
The Next Big Thing Blog Hop.

And now, a round of applause to Cody Martin, for having the nerve to join me.  Tag, Cody, you’re it!