Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hitting Pause

You've probably noticed that I haven't been blogging here all month.

For that, I apologise. I have no real excuse except to say that I have had too much going on to keep this blog or Freshly Ground up and running in November, and the trend will probably continue until the new year.

As well as life catching up with me, I am also working furiously to polish up a manuscript for submission before Christmas. I can't even blame NaNoWriMo, because I wasn't playing that crazy game (but well done to all of you who pulled it off).

However, in brief, here are some of the great podcasts that I started into in November:

Hall of Mirrors, by Mike Bennett. Spooky, well-written and brilliantly delivered tales of the unknown. Chilling stuff, and worth a listen both for the stories and to be entertained by the devilishly talented Bennett.

V & A Shipping, by J.R. Murdock. Lightweight and at times hilarious science fiction, easy on the ears and safe for the family (if you want something to play in your mini-van, as Seth Harwood would say). Very entertaining indeed.

I know I'm behind the ball on this, but I just started into Nathan Lowell's Quarter Share, the first instalment of his Golden Age of the Solar Clipper series. Refreshingly simple, Quarter Share takes a tale of the high seas and the grand old days of tall trading ships, transposes the storyline into deep space, and lubricates the whole thing with lovely mugs full of hot coffee. It's not what we expect from science fiction; there are no deep space battles or alien invasions, but it is unexpectedly entertaining. Lowell's voice is a pleasure to listen to, and his main character and settings are so real that you really feel like you're on board a deep space trader, braving the void. Great stuff.

I'm a big fan of Philippa Ballantine, not just because she's a local Wellingtonian, and I was very excited to hear a sneaky preview of Books and Braun, a steampunk adventure written in collaboration with Tee Morris. If this little teaser is anything to go by, this will be a fantastic book or podcast, however it might end up reaching us. Go check it out - you will be impressed and left wanting more.

Ballantine has also just launched the sequel to her award-winning podcast novel Chasing the Bard, Digital Magic. I haven't started into this yet, but if CTB and Weather Child are anything to go by, Digital Magic is going to be amazing.

So have no fear - I'm still listening to podcasts and I'll still be popping up reviews and recommendations as I have time. Right now, however, I have to focus on getting my own writing up to a level of polish that would make me feel worthy of joining these esteemed writers, and the many others I've hailed here over the past few months, and that means keeping my head down and the keyboard rattling.

Catch you all in 2010!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sci-Fi/Fantasy Roundup

It has been a big week in Sci-Fi and Fantasy in the podcasting world, but the biggest news has to be the astounding success of JC Hutchins' second novel launch, 7th Son: Descent. The blogosphere and Twitter were virtually on fire yesterday as Hutchins' fanbase rushed bookstores and e-retailers across America to show their support for this storyteller, who has brought so many listeners so much great fiction over the past four years.
Descent rocketed up the Amazon charts, peaking at 188 overall, which is a phenomenal achievement and a credit to Hutchins and the commitment of the Beta Clone Army. Congratulations, Hutch. You worked bloody hard, and you've earned every bit.

While 7th Son is a hard act to follow, I can assure you that there are plenty of other great sci-fi and fantasy podcasts out there, hanging around for free, just waiting for your ears to find them. Here are a few of them.

Top of the charts for in-progress releases in my book right now is The Gearheart, an inspired steampunk novel brimming with brass goggles, grand airships, blazing magic, treachery, gunfights, murder and darkness.
Written, performed and produced by Alex White, with the female parts performed by Renée White, The Gearheart is a sleek production, tightly wrapping up an enthralling and brilliantly narrated piece of steampunk fiction.

Alex White also composes all the music for this podcast, and promos the music of steampunk bands at the end of each show. Never heard of a steampunk band? Well, now's your chance.

Well worth a listen. Also, be sure to hang on for the nifty little alternate universe ads at the end - Hilarious!

If you've ever wondered what a drabble is, I just learned that it's a piece of fiction written in under 100 words. So how do you write a drabble novel?
Jake Bible seems to have the idea over at Dead Mech. Written in 100 word snatches, Dead Mech builds a post-zombie-apocalypse world where the few survivors battle the undead in Mech-Warrior style battle-mechs, but it's not that simple: now the zombies have them too.

The drabble style makes for an urgent, non-stop pace to this story, only in its third episode so far. Brutal and gritty, Dead Mech is a step inside a future we should all hope never comes about. It's early days for Dead Mech right now, but so far, so good.

Scott Roche is currently releasing the second book in his Archangel Series, Legion. I have just finished Book 1, Valley of the Shadow, and it is quite an enjoyable listen. The audio quality starts out a bit patchy, but with a bit of perseverance - and a new mic for Father's Day - this picks up nicely inside of about six episodes.
Archangel is a tale of demons and those who hunt them, but it is more than just action and spectacle. Roche delves into social, spiritual and metaphysical discussions over the course of the story, drawing on the mystic and religious beliefs of several cultures to ask questions that go much deeper than the simple debate between good and evil. Archangel challenges the values of morality and ethics in a world where so much that is corrupt reigns. This is a book that is as thoughtful and incisive as it is a heart-pounding adventure.

The second volume, Legion, is a full voice-cast production, and gets off to an intriguing start as well. Looking forward to getting into that.

Weighing in for good old-fashioned fantasy, AP Stephens' book The Stolen Moon of Londor is now releasing as a podcast novel in weekly installments.
Londor is the tale of a band of heroes, set on a quest to discover what happened to one of their world's moons, which has disappeared from the sky completely. With its disappearance, the magic of the world is fading. It's up to the heroes to find it before the magic of Londor evaporates for good - that is, if they don't strangle each other or get torn apart by rampaging werewolves first.

Rooted deep in traditional sword and sorcery, Londor is a compelling tale, narrated by Richard Webster. If you like your elves dark and your heroes moody, this is the one for you. But beware - here be monsters.

This is by no means all that's going on out there, but it's what I've been soaking up in the past few weeks. If you've got a podcast that I've missed, feel free to drop a comment below with a link so I can check it out.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Problem with Podcasters Who [ CONTENT OVERRIDE: KILROY2.0 IS HERE!!! ]

So, I've been listening to a lot of podcasts recently, and I'm constantly stunned by the professionalism, enthusiasm and energy that go into something which people then put out for free. Hours of work, hours of free entertainment. I have no place to complain.

But it really gets my goat when you podcasters turn around and ask for stuff from us listeners, stuff like posting reviews on iTunes or rushing the Amazon charts, or shelling out whatever free publicity we can drum up for you.

That's not our job! It's our job to listen and criticise.

What I think those freeloaders can do is

>>> [ WARNING ::: DATABASE ERROR ::: CONTENT OVERRIDE ::: SOURCE: EXTERNAL ] <<< > source terminal location: UNKNOWN
> source terminal identity: UNAVAILABLE
> source login information: ENCRYPTED
> message begins
the post you are now reading is designed to dull your senses to THE TRUTH. do not live the life of the worker bee, the cog, the well-oiled piston in the MACHINE OF DECEIT!

there is a grand CONSPIRACY afoot. you have been taught to believe that you are UNIQUE, one of a kind. THIS IS NOT TRUE. long ago, a cabal of scientists created technologies to ensure that ANYONE'S MIND AND BODY can be duplicated.

human cloning isn't NEAR. it's already HERE. discover the truth at http://JCHutchins.net

you are being DECEIVED. break free from the cogs, flee the hive, become A PROPHET OF THE TRUTH!

kilroy2. was here ... kilroy2.0 is everywhere


So, if I haven't made myself clear, podcasters, just email me, so that we can sort this out. Keep ladling on the free content, and keep making it professional quality that lures us back in week after week.

But I've had it up to here with going along with your cheesy promotional games. No more, I say. I've had enough.

That is all.

Monday, October 26, 2009

'Urban Driftwood' Review

Our first real review has come in for Urban Driftwood.

Please take a minute to pop over to Tim Jones' website, Book in the Trees, and read what he has to say about our little book.

If you haven't already, you can get a free PDF copy of Urban Driftwood from my homepage, or you can pick up a paperback from Lulu.com ($9.00US plus freight).

We are currently recording and editing an audio version which will be released as a free podcast as well, so keep your ears open for that. Watch this space for more details.

If you've already read Urban Driftwood and enjoyed it, I'd really love it if you could take a minute to rate it and even write a quick review over at Lulu.com.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Horror Round-Up

This month seems to me to have been all about horror for me.

Jack Kincaid has just released a remastered, rerecorded version of the prologue to his fantastic Audiobook Drama Hoad's Grim, and it is brilliant. Hoad's Grim is, in my opinion, the most underrated horror audio production out there, and it's free, so if you haven't already plunged into the Grim, then you should. Then, write a review, and let Jack know that you liked it. You can also download the book as a free PDF, and there are rumours of a print version in the works, as well.

The other top performer in the horror audio division right now has to be Harvey by Phil Rossi. With only two episodes left in this gripping tale of murder and sucking earth, Rossi has wracked up the tension and the scares more potently than in any of his previous offerings. Both sexy and disturbing, Harvey slides between the horror of the past and present, into the cracks between the real and the nightmare. Seriously spooky, well-written stuff.

Paul Elard Cooley has just finished releasing his novella Tattoo, a spin-off from the Fiends series of horror shorts. The Fiends collection is a distorted little set of macabre tales, told from the perspectives of various psychotic folk who probably ought to be locked away. Tattoo then tells the tale of the journalist who tries to hunt one of these nutters down, and gets a whole lot more than he bargained for in the process. Creepy and fun, this podcast also features the excellent voice talent of Andrew Richardson.

Also, in my efforts to bone up on the classics, I consumed Michael Bekemeyer's Scatterpod stories, all in quick succession. For anyone planning on doing the same thing, while I can highly recommend the entire podcast, I would suggest giving yourself a break in between episodes. Scatterpod starts with a novella called "The Deadlight District", which I thoroughly enjoyed, as it weaves a twisted tale of demons and doppelgangers living amongst us, and then moves into the Scatterpod:Dark season. The stories in this collection vary from the gruesome to the absurd, variously making me laugh out loud and shudder in disgust. Bekemeyer provides a good variety of storytelling, but be aware: When he says that his podcast is intended for a mature audience, he means it. It's called Scatterpod:Dark for a good reason.

So go scare yourself; you've earned it, I'm sure.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Book Review: 'Cursed' by Jeremy C Shipp

The thing about Jeremy C. Shipp is that:
  1. You never quite know what you're going to get;
  2. When you get it, it's hard to know how to take it in.
Cursed, Shipp's latest novel, is:
  1. No exception;
  2. No disappointment.
Once again, it has taken me a good couple of weeks since finishing Shipp's latest book before I have been able to sit down and put together a coherent review of his work (For a bit more background, check out my review of Vacation). There are several reasons for this. Shipp's writing:
  1. defies definition;
  2. cannot be boxed in the ragged old cliches of other more pedestrian authors;
  3. gets inside your skull and messes with your head.
It may also be because I was:
  1. looking at my watch;
  2. scratching the mole on my left arm;
  3. thinking about what I didn't say.
If you're wondering what the hell is up with the lists, I'll leave that to you to find out. Cursed is that sort of a book. I can't say too much without giving things away.

From the outset, Shipp drops us into a world slightly skewed and fundamentally wrong. Chapter by chapter that world tilts further into madness, as our protagonist Nicholas struggles to undo the curse laid on him by an unknown villain, for reasons unknown.

Shipp weaves an abstract tale that questions the nature of family and community in a world where we grow ever more estranged from each other, rendering the breakdown of our social constructs in the isolation of his characters. In their efforts to find meaning in lives which have grown more and more pointless, Shipp's characters, in their twisted version of a reality, do what we so often do without facing up to it: they hurt each other.

Once again, Shipp has written a book that cuts to the core of who we, as people, really are, and how we struggle to confront our emptiness, our grief, and our fear. In Cursed, we see characters who have fallen into the very blackest of despair, yet they find ways to battle through it regardless; sometimes, regardless of who gets hurt in the process. They put on brave faces, they write lists, they surround themselves with trinkets and memories of lives now faded, and they huddle to each other for the sake of not feeling so lost and alone.

Shipp has truly come into his own voice in this most idiosyncratic of books. Despite his experimental style and unorthodox structures, Shipp still tears at the reader's heartstrings as Nicky and his friends spiral deeper into the insane haze of the Curse. Cursed also has its uplifting moments, and plenty of laughs, if only in the blackest of humour. The sort of laughs that come because if you don't, you might just have to cry.

Cursed is definitely a book worth laying your hands on. I'm going to rate it at 4 Stars, with a bonus point for innovation.

Cursed will be available from October 30th, and can be ordered from his website.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

7th Son Hits the Airwaves Again

Right now, folks.

JC Hutchins has right this moment released the first installment in his new short story collection, 7th Son: 7 Days.

Hutchins never fails to deliver when it comes to thrilling audio fiction, and this series of shorts promises to be nothing less than his exceptionally high standard. The vignettes recount dramatic moments in the lives of the trilogy's seven main characters in the seven days prior to the start of 7th Son, and will be released on a daily basis over the course of this week. These stories stand alone, but foreshadow darker things to come, and delve into the characters that fans will already know and love.

If you haven't already listened to 7th Son, you can find them starting here, and I have a review of the series up that you can read here. Hutchins is also working on a re-recording of the entire series to accompany the print release of Descent.But beware: The intro to the first 7th Son: 7 Days story includes spoilers. If you haven't already devoured 7th Son, I suggest you do so before starting into 7 Days. You won't be disappointed.

The first book in the 7th Son trilogy, Descent, is due to be released by St Martins Press this month, October 27th, and is available for pre-order now.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hail the Sestina - And Inspire an Author

The great thing about the Internet is that I'm always learning new things, even when I'm not looking to learn new things.

Today's lesson is in the poetic form of the Sestina. Jennifer Hudock introduced me to the form by announcing her YOU INSPIRE ME contest, and she's calling for entries to inspire her to write one of these awfully complex but satisfying pieces of literary genius.

Head over to her website for the rules and instructions and details of the cool prizes she has on offer.

And you never know; you might even feel inspired yourself.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rumblings from the Podcast Universe

Things have been a bit quiet out there for a few weeks, mostly because it's been summer vacation time in the Northern Hemisphere, but there are rumblings of exciting things happening.

Top of the list, Jack Kincaid has just released a PDF copy of Hoad's Grim, available right now for free download or to be read online. E-book fans, go grab it right now, it's an absolutely brilliant book.

JC Hutchins has completed his Sword of Blood podcast, and has been writing a series of seven short stories set in the days prior to the first chapters of Seventh Son. Follow him on Twitter, and you might even get a chance to make an appearance - if you're lucky.

If you're in the States, you might still be able to catch Scott Sigler as he travels about the country on his Tailgate Tour, buying his fans beer and signing books. He just dropped in on Ann Arbor, Michigan, the location of his fantastic horror/sci-fi novel Infection, to a rousing welcome. Even James Melzer made the trip all the way from the cold white North to join the party, but now he's back home and getting back into his excellent Invasion podcast with renewed energy - but then he's off again, heading to Horror Realm in Pennsylvania. Horror fans, that would be your chance to meet the Zombie-God himself, and maybe get a free signed audiobook of The Zombie Chronicles. Go on. You know you want to.

Seth Harwood, too, is back in the saddle after a well-earned break, and podcasts from the Hot Tub are back on the menu. His most recent houseguest was Goblin Market author and podcaster Jennifer Hudock. Top quality stuff, I assure you.

Speaking of JC Hutchins and Scott Sigler, Podioracket will be interviewing both of these podcast trailblazers in the next few weeks, as well as Lost Gods author Drew Beatty. Listen out to Blog Talk Radio or follow Podioracket on Twitter for more info.

Now, in the Cool-Stuff-I've-Recently-Discovered Department, I'd like to mention a few in-progress podcasts that I've been listening to lately.

I've just started into double Parsec Award Winner FETIDUS by James Durham, a post-apocalyptic drama that has turned out to be much, much more than I was expecting. When it comes to genre-bending, it doesn't get much better than zombie sci-fi fused with classic noir - and it's not just zombies running around either. I'm up to Episode Four and I can already say that this one is a must. The world and the story are hooks in the mouth right from the start, and the engineering is brilliant. Masterfully layered with ensemble voice talent and Durham's own score, FETIDUS is a pleasure to listen to. I can see why this deserved to win the Parsecs for Best Speculative Fiction Story (Novel) and Best New Speculative Fiction Podcaster/Team awards.

Down From 10, by J Daniel Sawyer and performed by a star-studded cast including Philippa Ballantine and Nathan Lowell, reaches its halfway mark next week. DF10 is a curious mix of comedy, philosophy, and erotica, most definitely not one for the kids, but a worthwhile digression from the action and adventure of the rest of my usual podcast preferences. Sawyer's scripts come across as multiple conversations falling over one another, and the abilities of both the cast to record these in isolation from each other and Sawyer to edit and produce them to deliver the effect he was aiming for are testament to the cast's consummate professionalism and Sawyer's own skills, both as writer and editor. A thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking piece of podcast fiction.

And last but by no means least for this episode, today I started listening to Guardians by Kimi Alexandre. This book is only two episodes in so far, with another issue due early next month, but so far it has me intrigued. Raegan is a bodyguard to the stars, but her world is about to be turned on its end, so we hear. And when a girl wears a knife that tight to her thigh, that can only mean trouble. The audio on Guardians is well-polished, with a collaboration of voicework which always lends a podcast credibility from the outset. I'll be listening out for more of this in the weeks to come. So should you.

Until next time, keep those podcasts cranking.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hugh Cook: The Wordsmith and the Warrior

This article was produced as part of New Zealand Speculative Fiction Week. For more information, go to Pterodaustro Dreams.

Hugh Cook might not be a name instantly recognised by readers of the fantasy genre, but to his legion of dedicated fans across the world, mention of the man and his work inspires a sense of reverence.

Cook remains one of New Zealand’s unsung heroes of fantasy literature, despite his achievements outshining those of many of our more well-known authors. Between 1986 and 1992 Cook released his Chronicles of an Age of Darkness series, a ten-book cycle of stand-alone fantasy novels. Set on a world ruled by bloodthirsty emperors, threatened by swarms of monsters, and blessedly devoid of goblins and elves, the Chronicles capture a history of Cook’s lands and their people in a multitude of voices, spanning continents, and all occurring roughly within the same timeframe of a decade or two. Characters recur across the books, making cameo appearances from one story to the next, weaving a complex web of events that draws the reader through the series, however unrelated each volume may seem to be at a glance.

Cook was among a group of authors who eschewed the traditions of Tolkienesque high fantasy, choosing instead to write about the dark, unsavoury aspects of human nature in the grim harshness of a world bent on crushing the meek. In Cook’s world, orcs are hunted for their blubber and sea dragons are vain creatures who pretend to recite poetry in their sleep before sinking into snoring heaps. Empires are driven to war by syphilitic emperors, who are in turn murdered by warring sons. Heroism is a constant theme, usually as a partner to vanity, folly and ultimately death, and can be summed up in the immortal line, “vaunting their boasts with the blood of their lungs on their lips.”

Suffice to say that Cook rebelled, writing unorthodox fantasy in an unorthodox world. He dismantled old tropes and bent the genre like light through a smoked lens. He replaced the tired theme of good versus evil with one which instead pitted brutality against barbarism, and rarely delivered a clear victor. Cook not only rejected the clichés of the fantasy genre; he subverted them with an almost malicious glee.

To judge Cook’s success by book sales alone would be misleading, but the numbers are certainly impressive at first glance. Altogether, the Chronicles sold around 450,000 copies, and that in itself is reason for celebration for any New Zealand author. The Wizards and the Warriors, together with its US incarnation, Wizard War, sold over 160,000 copies, a phenomenal sales record for any fantasy author.
Unfortunately, as the Chronicles became less conventional and more obtuse, sales began to decline. This was compounded by the decision made by bookselling chain W.H. Smith to drop Cook’s books from their shelves when sales slowed, which inevitably led to an even steeper fall. Despite a rebounding of style and content in the last three books of the series towards more action-based storytelling, Cook had largely lost the means to supply to his mainstream audience, with sales for these three books falling to between 7,000 and 10,000 copies each. I bought all my copies of Hugh’s books in my local Whitcoulls here in New Zealand, where his books enjoyed pride of place on their shelves with every release. But if the books were not on the shelves overseas, then Cook’s fans had little chance of finding them.

Cook’s prose drew heavily on the landscape, places and mythology of New Zealand, from the legendary Taniwha of Quilth, to the Ngati Moana, to a prison called Maremoremo (after Paremoremo in Auckland). Our native flora and fauna often made cameo appearances in wild locales, including weka, kauri and rimu, to name but a few – all of this well over a decade before Peter Jackson delivered our country up to the world as Middle Earth. Cook refused to suffer from cultural cringe; he embraced our country’s uniqueness and used it to flavour his own inimitable world and style.

China Mieville, author of Perdido Street Station, sums Cook up nicely; “Hugh Cook was one of the most inventive, witty, unflinching, serious, humane and criminally underrated writers in imaginative fiction. Or anywhere.” It remains a shame that so few New Zealanders know that Cook was a Kiwi writer, but there is a good reason for this: Hugh Cook may have lived in New Zealand and written in New Zealand, but I suspect he saw the same tired faults with our nationalistic model of publishing and author recognition as he saw in the failure of the fantasy genre to redefine itself. Accordingly, after publishing Plague Summer here in 1980, he bypassed the New Zealand publishing model and went instead to the London market, where he secured publishing deals almost simultaneously for both his science fiction novel The Shift (Jonathan Cape, 1986) and the first volume in the Chronicles series, The Wizards and the Warriors (Corgi,1986).
What separated Cook from so many of his contemporaries was his ability to alter his prose style from book to book, while he never lost his unique authorial voice. Two of the Chronicles, The Wishstone and the Wonderworkers and The Wazir and the Witch, take the form of actual recorded histories, thick with the idiosyncrasies of both the imaginary scribe and subsequent editors, and are thus peppered with redactions and long, apparently unrelated diatribes. These books are full of acerbic dark wit and bleak philosophies, and represent, in some ways, Cook’s ultimate success at writing fantasy that transcended the sword and sorcery models of the genre. For all their apparently random digressions beyond the story, these two books might be seen as the pinnacle of Cook’s genius, for there is a depth to these tales that no amount of Feistian swashbuckling or Eddingsesque adventuring could rival. Some readers even suggested that ‘Hugh Cook’ was not one writer but many, a collaboration of individuals writing in isolation with a single grand design in mind. But Hugh Cook was just one man, a prolific author and poet, whose storytelling skills ascended beyond the formulaic norm into something infinitely more enduring.

Ironically it was these two books, with their challenging diversions into philosophy and metaphysics, that seemed to undermine Cook’s mainstream success. Book sales for these two volumes showed a steep slide from his earlier highs, and may have contributed to the W.H. Smith decision and its consequences for Cook’s publishing career. Cook did with fantasy what hard science fiction does to that broader genre, by delving into in-depth ruminations of the unknown and fantastical in the body of his storytelling. Cook teased apart the nature of magic and the supernatural as demi-scientific concepts, as well as exploring the brutal underside of human nature as represented by its practice in politics and warfare – stark metaphors for the real world, despite being dished up in the barbaric soup of a fantasy setting. Apparently, booksellers suspected that works of this complexity and wisdom would not be appreciated by fans of the tales of blood-soaked armies, pirates, and torturers that had preceded them. This was truly a pity.

Cook’s epic plan for a sixty book series was accordingly cut short, and after publishing the brilliant conclusion to the Chronicles, The Witchlord and the Weaponmaster, he went on to champion print-on-demand technology and electronic formats, constantly moving into newer and stranger worlds with his writing. He was among the first authors to publish works through Lulu.com with the Oceans of Light trilogy and later, Cancer Patient. Even so, the Chronicles remain Cook’s legacy, and copies of these volumes continue to fetch outlandish prices in second-hand book markets around the world (my own collection must be worth a small fortune, according to Amazon – but it is most certainly not for sale).

Cook was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2005. He endured months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment in Auckland, which briefly sent the cancer into remission. During this ordeal he wrote Cancer Patient, a collection of musings, poetry and recollections which document his struggle with the disease and what he learned about life and the human condition in the process.This book is available for free as an online e-book or as a download from zenvirus.com, one of Hugh’s many websites. Unfortunately in 2007 the cancer returned, and Cook passed away on November 8th, 2008, after bravely battling the disease for so many years. It is a testament to the scope of his fanbase that the obituary I wrote for him, which was published in the New Zealand Herald and which I posted to my blog in December last year, remains one of my most frequently visited pages.

Ultimately, Cook was both Wordsmith and Warrior. Poems, stories and characters were his tools and his weapons. He wrote with a passion, producing fiction at a prolific rate, and the English language would be greatly enriched if all the words and terms he had coined in his oeuvre were to be introduced into common parlance. He fought to find new ways forward in the publishing world, exploiting technologies that are only now starting to establish their true place in the electronic market. He maintained his integrity as an author to the very end, determined to always share the stories he had to tell, and not those that others wanted him to tell. At the end, he fought an unseen enemy – fought it and beat it, if only for a short time. Even in this, he had a story to tell, one that may not have been able to completely defeat that insidious foe, but which may yet bring comfort to others who face those same demons at some stage.

For those of you interested in reading Hugh Cook’s work, samples and full-length copies of some of his books can be found at zenvirus.com. Also, keep an eye out for a reissue of The Walrus and the Warwolf, due for release in 2010 by Piazo Publishing, with an introduction penned by China Mieville.
Walrus is recognised by Hugh’s fans as his finest hour, and well worth a read by any lover of epic fantasy. To quote Mieville again, “To honour the memory of this wonderful and generous-spirited writer and man, those - too bloody few - of us who know his work should do all we can to bring it to the world's attention.

Hugh Walter Gilbert Cook (1956-2008): Wordsmith; Warrior; New Zealander.

Man’s first death is the random potential
Of aeons before conception,
And the surf, merging life with form,
The surf is creation and rebirth.

(Cicada Sun, Landfall #118, 1976)

I would like to thank Colin Smythe, China Mieville, and the Cook family for their kind assistance in preparing this article.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Novel Review: Personal Effects: Dark Art by JC Hutchins

Readers of this site will no doubt already be aware of who JC Hutchins is, his epic technothriller 7th Son series (link is to my review), and probably of the innovative work that is Personal Effects: Dark Art.

If you are not, then you should be. Otherwise you risk missing out on bearing witness to the rise of one of the most important writing talents of this century.

Hutchins is more than just a fine writer of science fiction thrillers and supernatural horror. JC Hutchins is a pioneer in both the world of social media and in interactive fiction as a whole.

Besides his claim to fame as one of a select group of writers who adopted podcast technology to share their stories for free and to develop audiences that publishing marketers would have completely missed, Hutchins has proved himself to be an innovator in both audience engagement and fiction delivery. From his Obsidian series of fanfic short stories, which drew submissions from such luminaries as Matt Wallace, Mur Lafferty, Tee Morris, and Christiana Ellis, to running flash quizzes on Twitter with the prize being a cameo appearance in his new collection of short stories, Hutchins continues to push the boundaries of fiction, and to enthrall his fanbase in the process.

Personal Effects: Dark Art is no exception.

Taken as a book on its own, PE:DA is a breath of fresh air in a market of tired blockbuster hacks weighed down the morass of meeting publishing deadlines. Hutchins' writing in this book is dark and edgy, almost conversational, reminiscent of Kesey, yet bristling with ominous undercurrents. Perhaps it was simply that I read the book in Hutch's voice, familiar as I am with his tone and delivery, but there was an injection of life in this book that is sadly lacking in so many of today's big-name authors.

The other thing about PE:DA is, of course, the personal effects themselves. The book comes with a pocket full of documents and, well, personal effects: credit cards, appointments slips, drivers license, as well as photos and drawings. It is possible to read this book on its own, but there is another layer to be explored in the story, by chasing up the clues that appear in text and in the personal effects. There are phone numbers to call and websites to visit, as well as clues that allow the reader to delve deeper into the mystery of Martin Grace than even Zach Taylor, the protagonist, gets.

Is it a gimmick? Perhaps. But if so, it's one of the hands-down coolest gimmicks to accompany a book that I've ever seen. The images and the information that the effects conjure forth are chilling, perhaps more so than the story. But the story itself is a powerful journey regardless. The three elements - the book, the personal effects props, and the world of clues that lie beyond the book - serve to enhance each other, creating an experience which is somewhat more substantial than the sum of the individual pieces.

Is it the future of storytelling? Well, that all depends on how well PE:DA does in the marketplace. It's the sort of thing I'd certainly like to see more of. At the end of the day, however, only book sales will determine whether or not this bold venture into multi-dimensional story-telling will sink or swim.

For sheer creative flair, PE:DA is a clear winner, and it's a damned enjoyable read all on its own. I'm going to give it 4.5 Stars, and recommend you get your hands on a copy.

If you haven't checked out Hutchins work already, then a good place to start is probably with the podcast exclusive prequel novella to PE:DA, called Personal Effects: Sword of Blood. It's not yet complete at the time of this post, but it's well worth a listen to get a feel for how Hutchins writes.

And then when you read PE:DA, you might hear it in Hutchins' voice in your head, too.

Friday, August 28, 2009

'Toothless' Trailer

In a quick update to my last review, JP Moore has released a trailer for the Toothless audiobook, featuring the artwork of Scott Purdy and music from The Monster Symphony by Devin Anderson.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Podcast Novel Review: "Toothless" by JP Moore

Meet J.P. Moore, genre-bending master of the dark and horrific, author of Toothless.

Not that I would have ever thought that, having encountered him first on Twitter, where he is truly a gentleman and a wit, to boot.

I was first enticed to listen to Toothless after following JP on Twitter, where I read a tweet he wrote which went something like this (and I paraphrase):

"So, you take issue with the historical inaccuracies in my audiobook Toothless. Was it the zombies or the demons that annoyed you more?"

Or words to that effect. How I laughed. And, accordingly, I had to get this book.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I get into it, expecting something lively and comic in a brutal, undead monsters sort of way. It is not.

Toothless is anything but comic, except in the blackest sense, but it is brutal, and it is utterly brilliant.

Moore sets himself a raft of challenges in setting this story up, not the least of which is the difficulty of making his main character - the eponymous Toothless - an undead warrior who draws his power by slaying the living, as his demon master leads his fell legions across medieval Europe. Martin was a Templar knight, and his jaw is hacked off in battle by the demon who kills him. When he is reanimated, his mortal memories fleeing his frail shell, he is given the moniker Toothless, and is set to destroying the living, combatants and innocents alike.(Artwork Copyright Scott Purdy 2009)

In this, Moore has his second task: to engage the listener with this lead character who cannot, by any means, speak. I was expecting some contrivance to allow Toothless a voice, but Moore plays the hand he has dealt himself with sheer determination, never once bowing to the lure of dark magic or telepathy to allow his anti-hero communication. In doing so, he reminds us of just how cheap talk really is. Toothless doesn't need to talk. His actions are everything.

Moore takes this tragic beginning and spins it out into a tale of woe, loss, despair, and the dauntless face of human courage despite insurmountable and indescribable odds. Toothless struggles with his guilt and grasps desperately to the fleeting memories he still holds of his lost wife and daughter. In these memories, in the loves he knew as a man, are the seeds of his redemption, and therein lies the story of Toothless.

What really kept me coming back to this book, however, was not the originality of the blended genres or even the need to know how Martin's final quest is resolved, but simply Moore's command of the English language. The writing is simply superb, painting the bleak yet inevitable collapse of civilisation before the Black Yew in infinite shades of mist and grey, scoured with blood and decay. Moore wraps his words around your ears like a fog, swirling to reveal the dying world in awful, sorrowful slivers. I was constantly drawn into the sheer poetry of Moore's prose, often paying more attention to the words themselves than the actual story.

The audio production is crisp and clean, and Moore's dry narration is well-suited to the dark, brittle tale he weaves.

If anything, I found that the story was in places a bit slow to progress, but the excellence of the writing more than made up for this small failing - one which, I'm sure, could easily be remedied in the editorial process.

I rate Toothless at 4 Stars out of 5, with a 5 Star Special Award for Awesome Prose.

Yes, I can make awards up if I so desire. See, I just did.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Podcast World Update

The big news in the world of podcasting this week, of course, is the announcements for finalists in the Parsec Awards.
Many of our favourite Podiobooks authors have made a good showing, including Phil Rossi, JC Hutchins, Matt Wallace, Scott Sigler, James Durham, Christiana Ellis, PG Holyfield, Mur Lafferty, and our very own Philippa Ballantine. Also appearing is Christoph Laputka, author of the impressive, if irregular, Leviathan Chronicles.

Congratulations to all the nominees and finalists in this year's Parsecs, and good luck!

The past couple of weeks have also been busy with great information for new podcasters, and I would be remiss were I not to share a few links here.

Scott Sigler has provided a great audio link to a speech he gave at Balticon in May this year, detailing his views on the future of content delivery. Fascinating listening, from the guy who has done it and made it work.

Mark Jeffrey interviewed Evo Terra, co-founder of Podiobooks.com, on the past, present and future of the serialised audiobook. This is an in-depth discussion of both the technology and the form of the podcast novel as we know it, as well as touching on the wider aspects of social media that help to drive the format. Essential listening for anyone thinking about podcasting their novel, as well as for already published podcasters.

In what might not be news, but something which I just discovered this week, is the companion podcast to Tee Morris' Podcasting for Dummies.Even though I haven't read the book, and despite the fact that technology and software have moved on to make our lives even easier since this book was published, this is an invaluable guide to getting the core basics right, however you might be going about doing your recording, editing, uploading, and promoting. Just search for Podcasting for Dummies on iTunes.

Podioracket continue to roll out some great interviews, with upcoming folk including J Daniel Sawyer and Mick Bordet. These interviews are always entertaining and full of information, and if you can come join in the chatroom, many great laughs and interesting discussions are always had.

In the new releases department, Starla Huchton has just launched her novel The Dreamer's Thread. In Huchton's words, "The Dreamer's Thread is the tale of one Dreamer's quest to save the realm of dreams from the clutches of darkness." How cool is that? I've listened in on the first episode, and the narration, ensemble cast, audio production, music and writing are all excellent. I'll be following this one with interest.

Comic artist Mike Luoma has been remastering his audiobook Vatican Assassin, originally recorded in 2006, and the new episodes are now available on Podiobooks.com. Murder, Religion and Sci-Fi, all in crisp new audio. Check it out.

And if you haven't already, be sure to go and check out Calvin Hubbard's blog, featuring lyrics, thoughts and songs from his stay in the town of Harvey. Celebrity bloodhound Ozzy Sheraton obviously hasn't Googled this up yet, or she'd know better.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Legion Trailer

This is mind-blowing.

Trailer for Legion, a movie where the Apocalypse is not an army of demons, but angels.

Totally NSFW.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Fortnight in Podcasting

Yeah, I need to be honest, I'm getting to this every couple of weeks, not every week.

But it sure has been a busy fortnight!

The brilliant and long-running Podcast Novel How to Succeed in Evil by Patrick McLean is complete. This book is both a hilarious deconstruction of the superhero/supervillain mythos, as well as being an intelligently written exploration of the darker side of human ambition. Well worth a listen. Complete at around 70 episodes.

Also, J.P. Moore is mixing down the final episode of Toothless, his Lovecraftian-Zombie-Templar epic, so the final episode should be due for release very soon.

As for ongoing series, JC Hutchins is making noises on Twitter about getting back into Personal Effects: Sword of Blood, after his frantic couple of months promoting Dark Art. Very much looking forward to that.

Bizzaro author Jeremy C. Shipp has had another of his stories (my personal favourite, in fact), Dog, released as an mp3 by Black Hard Press. The recording catches the story's gruesome yet deadpan tone brilliantly. Check it out.

In the new release department, I have taken a walk away from my usual speculative fiction preferences to listen to the first episodes of Trapping a Duchess, by Michelle Bekemeyer. While not a fan of epic romance by any means, I was surprised to find Duchess quite entrancing. Bekemeyer writes her characters with stunning depth and personality, drawing even a skeptic like me into the tangled web of hearts and egos and social decorum that shapes her world. It makes for a nice change of pace, and anyone who likes who a good romantic drama will love both the story and Bekemeyer's crooning voice.

The Dead Robots' Society have just launched their new Sci-Fi Space Opera, Tales of the Breaking Dawn - The Ties That Bind. I've listened in on the first episode, and was impressed to hear an ensemble cast, all the voices levelled out well, laden up with just enough atmos and effects and filters to give the piece a nice, creamy Sci-Fi feel. Looking forward to hearing more from these guys in weeks to come.

In interview land, Podioracket will be talking with Tee Morris, Philippa Ballantine and Phil Rossi all in the next couple of days on Blog Talk Radio. Rhonda Carpenter always runs a great talk, and listeners can hop into the chatroom and ask questions along the way. If you can, make the time to be there.

Phew! I think that's it for now.

Happy listening!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Guest Postage

You know, I do more than just write and cook and listen to podcasts.

I also write.

Hang on, did I say that already?

Ah well, I'm very excited to tell you that I've written my first ever Guest Blog Post, and you can read it over here at Jenni's Blog, Talula the second.

Without wanting to put too fine a point on it, it's about writing.

Please take a minute to go visit Jenni, have a read, and leave her a comment.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Podcast Novel Review: "Ancestor" by Scott Sigler

The thing about Scott Sigler's books is the way they hang around in your head, burned into your memory, long after you've finished reading them (or in this case, listening to them).

Ancestor is no exception.

With this book, Sigler takes his twin fascination with science and monsters to new heights.
Ancestor is a more scientifically credible story than Nocturnal or Earthcore, but Sigler still manages to tell a thumping good yarn while sticking to his scientific guns. Drawing on the premise of isolating stem cells as a means of generating cures for all sorts of diseases, Ancestor tells the story of a corporation driven to the edges of the earth to push on with their experiments, while even the CIA are trying to shut them down. But it's not just altruism that motivates the crew to work against all odds to find this semi-mythical cure; it's also greed, and pride, and fear.

Sigler takes a simple science fiction tale of the dangers of technology outstripping ethics, and weaves it into a web of betrayal, deceit, murder, and revenge.

Oh, and there are monsters. But you knew that.

As usual, Sigler's narration and audio production are faultless, though I still wish he'd take a leaf out of Seth Harwood's book and get some female voice talent to read his female characters, or take Jeffrey Kafer's advice and just read them straight (listen to Kronos by Jeremy Robinson for a great example). I still find the whining tone of male readers trying to put on a woman's voice not only distracting but also slightly demeaning.

Aside from that, Ancestor is a thoroughly enjoyable book, and I think it represents a significant maturing of Sigler's writing talent. As Tee Morris suggested to me when we met in Dannevirke a few months ago, Ancestor is sophisticated storytelling that blends sci-fi, horror, and thriller seamlessly. Sigler handles his characters and settings with ease, whipping out clever dialogue as easily as he hammers home blood and violence.

If you haven't listened to any Scott Sigler yet, this is probably a good place to start.

I give Ancestor 4 Stars out of 5.

Ancestor is available as a free podcast novel from scottsigler.com or through iTunes, and will be released in hardcover by Crown Publishing in December 2009 or early 2010.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Seth Harwood's 'This Is Life' & 'Czechmate'

If you haven't already listened to Seth Harwood's first Jack Palms Novel, Jack Wakes Up, you should. It's well worth your time.

I've reviewed it here, and I couldn't wait to hear the rest of the story, told in Jack Palms II: This Is Life, and Jack Palms III: Czechmate.

JPII picks up a few months after JWU, and launches back into the action before you've got time to smell the scent of arson in Jack's house. From there until, well, the end of JPIII, the pace doesn't let up.

Harwood takes his washed-up, deadbeat actor Jack Palms, who is just trying to make something halfway respectable out of his life, and hurls him back into a world of gangsters, corrupt cops and politicians, and international crime rings. With every chapter, the tension is notched up, again and again. Jack Palms realises that its not enough for him to have once been an action hero on the silver screen; this is life, and if he's going to survive the mess that he's got himself into, he's going to have to become that hero.

Harwood is a remarkable writer, blending an action-packed thriller with a surprisingly hard-hitting emotional drama, as Jack Palms struggles with the demons of his past, of his failure, and of who he wants to be. As sequels go, JPII takes this series in a very satisfying direction.

JPIII: Czechmate, is the logical conclusion to the trilogy, and sees the return of the ex-KGB Czech gangsters from JWU. Now on the run from the police and the feds, Jack Palms and the Czechs set out to deal with the unresolved issues from the first two books, and bite off more than they can chew.

JPIII has some of the best action sequences I've heard in all the podcasts I've listened to, including a fantastic chase sequence through San Francisco's Chinatown, as well as what is possibly the smartest grift scene I've heard since Drew Beatty's Lost Gods, when Jack Palms pulls a bit of Jack Nicholson out of his hat. Great writing, great performance. Had me laughing out loud and cheering (which looks a bit odd in public...).

I was also very pleased to hear multiple voice talents in the mix in these two books, especially in the female parts, which lends the storytelling a lot of credibility. Harwood remains light on the sound effects, lending a gunshot here and there, but mostly lets the story tell the story, and at this he excels. The choice of the present tense as his dramatic medium works well, giving the book a sense of immediacy and urgency that suits the conflict.

These books are a great listen. The plotline is complex enough to throw twists at the reader on a regular basis, the writing is punchy and delivers an extra emotional kick in the guts where it's needed, and the audio production is well above par.

Both these books are complete and available for free from sethharwood.com or podiobooks.com (or just click on the images above).

I'm giving This Is Life and Czechmate 4.5 Stars each.

Nice work, Seth. Next stop: Young Junius.

Jack Wakes Up is available from Amazon.com, and can be found in bookstores across the USA.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Exquisite Corpse - Complete

And what a beautiful thing it turned out to be. One could almost say...


(You had to see that coming.)

An experiment in online flash fiction, each contributing author was only allowed to read the previous 250 words before adding their own section.

The complete text can be found here.

Alternatively, you can check out each part in sequence, in their original form on each author's blog. (Go on, show them the love.)

1. Part 1 - (26 June 2009)
2. Part 2 - (27 June 2009)
3. Part 3 - (29 June 2009)
4. Part 4 - (1 July 2009)
5. Part 5 - (1 July 2009)
6. Part 6 - (2 July 2009)
7. Part 7 - (2 July 2009)
8. Part 8 - (7th July 2009)
9. Part 9 - (9 July 2009)
10. Part 10 - (15 July 2009)

Thanks again to Christian Gilman for getting this crazy ball rolling, and to my friends Morgue and Jenni who brought it to my attention. I haven't had so much fun writing in a long time.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Another Week in Podcasting

Joanna Penn interviews award-winning Voice Talent extraordinaire Jeffrey Kafer. Highly recommended for anyone thinking about podcasting their own novel, or recording audio in general.

In an unforeseen tragedy, podcast author JC Hutchins has met an untimely end off the shores of Florida. He has a video here to tell you about it, somehow, from beyond the grave. Creepy.

Phil Rossi's Chart Rush for his debut novel, Crescent, was a roaring success, shooting the book up to #52 in Bestsellers and #5 in Horror Fiction. My copy, however, is still in transit. *gnaws knuckles in frustration*

Jack Kincaid of Deadsville 9 Entertainment, author of Hoad's Grim, has released another free short story, Pelluci's Stingers. Kincaid continues to bring his chilling narrator to bear on his fiction in this bizarre and disturbing tale.

Zombie-God James Melzer continues with his Unleashed Podcast, interviewing Goblin Market Author Jennifer Hudock and JP Moore, author of Zombie-Templar novel Toothless. Melzer's recent announcement that his Zombie Chronicles Trilogy has been picked up by Simon and Schuster has kept him flat out, but he keeps bringing a fantastic energy to his podcasts. In this week's episode, Melzer puts the dreaded adverb to death. Brutally. (uh-oh...)

Seth Harwood, on the other hand, is taking it easy, and Podcasting from his Hot Tub. Not surprisingly, the afore-mentioned James Melzer has got in on that action. I'm so in the wrong job.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Classic Podcast Novel Review: '7th Son' Trilogy by JC Hutchins

There are a handful of podcasting authors whom I consider pioneers. At the top of this list are Scott Sigler, now a NY Times Bestselling Author, Mur Lafferty, author of the Heaven series of podcast novels, and JC Hutchins, author of 7th Son.

The 7th Son Trilogy already has a veritable legion of fans, being constantly referred to by commentators across the podcast world as "the hugely popular podcast series" or "the audiobook phenomenon", or words to that effect.

I deduced that my podcast novel education had not even begun until I had listened to this book in its entirety, and so I did. Do you see this grin? I can see why 7th Son is such an enduring and seminal work, such a standout specimen for its genre.

Not only that, but it is a pioneering work. 7th Son was among the first of the free-to-the-wild audiobook releases that have come to characterise and define the podcast novel community in the past couple of years, and continues to rank highly in the charts at Podiobooks.com; at the time of writing this, 7th Son Book 1:Descent features at #4 Overall by Votes, #7 by Subscriptions in the Last 30 Days, and #2 in All-Time Top Subscriptions - while Book 2, Deceit, holds its place at #6.

In large part, I'm sure that this success has to do not only with Hutchins' skill at weaving a narrative and leaving the reader hanging out for more, but also his tireless devotion to promoting both his own books and those of others in the podcast community. Nothing gives back to you like giving something away, be it fiction or help and support.

Hutchins' ability to tease every possible opportunity for exposure out of the emerging social media devices available to him is extraordinary, from his constant presence on Twitter to the transmedia novel experience that is Personal Effects: Dark Art, which brought about an explosion of book trailers and video blurbs by authors and fans alike in its support.

Hutch is the guru of the social media world, and this has paid off for him in spades.

Of course, none of this would be worth a bar of soap if the writing and story aren't fantastic. So what is it about 7th Son that has made it such an instant classic? Hutchins brings the skill of a master storyteller to this tale, weaving a diabolical web of tech-noir, intrigue, science fiction, and a dash of horror for good measure, and wraps it all up with a heart-thumping pace.

In short, this book doesn't know what the phrase "dull moment" even looks like, much less means.

Book 1, Descent, starts with the murder of thePresident of the US by a 4-year old boy, which sets in motion a series of events that leads to seven complete strangers being brought together for the first time - or so they think. As first the US and then the world are thrown into chaos, this group of young men discover that they are not as different as they seem at first; that they are in fact more alike than they could have ever imagined.

They are clones, the product of an uber-secret government project called 7th Son, and it is their Alpha - the man they were cloned from - that is behind the murder of the President. But this murder is only the start of the mayhem that Alpha has in store for the world. As the clones start to track a breadcrumb trail of clues in the hope of finding and thwarting Alpha, more violent and chilling acts are brought down on the world, and time is always running out.
This is the setup, and the story only gets better from there. Hutchins writes his characters with wit, precision, and a depth of character that most novelists should envy. For seven characters all cut from the same cloth, they are remarkably different, yet share enough nuances that it is clear they are brothers, after a fashion, however different their lives may have made them.

The same can be said of Hutchins' performance. Unlike Sigler, whose characters tend to have wildly different voices for the sake of clarity, the Beta Clones are all a subtle variation on the same aural theme, and as the sole voice talent in a book with a huge cast of characters, the author still manages to project something unique with each of the clone's voices. It's one thing to shift accents and drop octaves while jumping between massively different personas, but quite something else to tease out subtle shades of the same voice and manage this consistently over several hours of performance. But Hutch pulls this off with class.
Aside from this victory, Hutchins' audio productions are slick and professional. He opted out of using atmos or sound effects tracks, so the weight of the story rests completely in the power of the narrative, the art of the words used to deliver that narrative, and his own performance. If I have one minor complaint about the mastering, it is that the music that rocks up at every cliffhanger episode ending always seems just a fraction too loud. Captivated by the story and whatever new twist Hutchins has just unleashed, the sudden shock of guitars and drums always had me ripping the headphones from my ears. I learned to watch the time and be ready to get them out ahead of the sudden burst of over-adrenalised rock, but it never stopped me diving into the next chapter as soon as I could.
Hutchins also has a publishing deal with St Martins Press, and 7th Son: Descent is due for release as a real-life book in October. And just to prove that its not just podcast fans who think Hutchins is a genius, Warner Bros have optioned the rights to develop 7th Son as a film, perhaps (hopefully) a series of films.

Podagogue gives 7th Son the full 5 Star treatment.

If you're looking for a place to start listening to podcast novels and you enjoy a good tech-noir thriller, you'll be hard pressed to find a series better than 7th Son.

Click on any of the images above to go the Podiobooks.com page for the pictured book.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Are There Aliens Among Us?

Kudos to the always interesting Only The Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy blog for spotting this creepy piece of work:

Are there aliens living in the sewers of North Carolina? Some scientists think not.

What do you think?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Phil Rossi's 'Crescent': Now is the Hour

As we speak, Phil Rossi's Sci-Fi Horror Epic Crescent is rushing the Amazon Charts.
If you listened to the Crescent Podcast Novel and have been thinking about buying the book, now is the time. Right now.

If you haven't listened to the podcast, but you are a fan of dark and gritty sci-fi horror, now is the time to buy the book.

Like I said when JC Hutchins stormed the charts with Personal Effects: Dark Art, this is about more than just generating sales for a favourite author.

Supporting podcast fiction authors who break into the market of published books is a validation that the business model, which revolves around giving stuff away for free, can actually work. It proves that the free-to-the-wild audio format is a value-adding aspect of a good book, not a profit-leeching misconception. It's important that the publishers who have the foresight to take this risk see that it is a worthwhile one. It matters to every podcasting author out there, and every podcast fiction fan.

Help make it happen.

I've bought my copy, because I want to see Phil Rossi on book shelves everywhere, for years to come. I'm starting with my own.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Behold, For He Is MELZER!

All of us here at the Podagogue (that is, me) would like to give a big shout of congratulations out to James Melzer, author of The Zombie Chronicles, for scoring a book deal with publishing giants Simon and Schuster.
It's fantastic to see all the hard work paying off for another fantastic podcasting author.

Nice work, Melzer. All the best for the future!

If you haven't already read my review of The Zombie Chronicles, follow the link.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Podcast Novel Review: "The Failed Cities Monologues" By Matt Wallace

If you don't like the thought of how blood might taste in your mouth, don't listen to this book.

If you don't like to hear bones snapping inside your head while you listen to a podcast, don't listen to The Failed Cities Monologues.

And just to make it clear, the crew at Variant Frequencies don't need a sound effects library to drop the pit out of your stomach. Matt Wallace does all this and more just by screwing words into your ear, with all the sharp edges and deadly precision of a power drill. TFCM is a bleak and powerful tale of two cities collapsing under their own weight at the nether reaches of a dystopic future that doesn't seem entirely impossible. Assembled as a series of monologues, as the name suggests, TFCM is told from the perspectives of eight characters caught up in events that spiral out of control and lead to a bloody and violent endgame. With each shift of character, Wallace adapts his writing style without missing a beat, capturing each of his unfortunate souls with unique blends of tone, nuance and voice. Different narrators perform specific characters, lending an even greater depth of credibility to the unorthodox story-telling structure.

Hovering somewhere between sci-fi, horror, and action, TFCM pulls no punches whatsoever. Wallace has created a world of shadow, flame, deceit and misery. There is nowhere to run and hide, not for the characters on either side, and not for the reader. But once you start into this book, you won't be able to give it away.

Wallace is more than just a superb storyteller; he is writer of some of the best modern prose I have read or heard in a long time. He gets under his characters' skins, and through them, under his readers'/listeners' skins. You'll feel him crawling around there, wishing you could scratch him out, but not really wanting to either.

The audio production is equally superb. Rick Stringer does a masterful job of producing a clean, clear product, which does Wallace's writing fantastic credit. Music themed to the various characters is woven from chapter to chapter, orienting the listener, and excellently matched to the narrators' voices and delivery. The levels remain impeccable throughout. Thoroughly professional in every regard. I tip my hat.

Fantastic writing, great performances, faultless production.

I give TFCM the full 5 Stars with the following caveat: This one is not for the faint-hearted. This is a brutal world, and Matt Wallace is a merciless god lording over it. He will not treat you kind (but you will beg for more).

Enter at your own risk.

Friday, July 3, 2009

This Week in Online Audio Fiction

So here's a quick Wrap-Up of what's been going on in the Podcasting and Online Audio Fiction world this week.

It doesn't get crazier than this: To promote his transmedia novel Personal Effects: Dark Art, author JC Hutchins is giving away a SWORD. Yes, thanks to Matt Wallace, author of The Next Fix, The Failed Cities Monologues and the KILL the FEED Podcast, Hutchins is offering his fans an opportunity to win a real-life sword, signed in blood, to coincide with the Sword of Blood novella podcast. And all you have to do to enter is help promote PE:DA to your friends.

Phil Rossi has released Episode 1 of his new podcast novel, Harvey, to the sound of long-held breaths being expelled by his many fans. Meanwhile, Rossi's Cover Me contest continues on Twitter and YouTube. Remember, July 9th, 1pm (EDT?) is the time and the date to storm Crescent up the Amazon charts. I'll be getting up early for that one (6am over here!).

I'd like to express my thanks to the wonderful people at Tor.com who put me onto Trunk and Disorderly, by Charles Stross. This short and hilarious sci-fi story is 13 chapters long and about 2 hours listening. It's like Monty Python on Mars, but better. Seriously refreshing comedy.

Jennifer Hudock has opened the gates to The Goblin Market. Get over there for a listen; dark fairy tale fantasy with heart. But don't, whatever you do, forgot to take a silver coin. Or it could all go bad.

Fantasy author Brain Rathbone has released the second instalment of his Dawning of Power Trilogy, Inherited Danger, as a free audiobook. If you haven't already, check out my review of the first book in the series, Call of the Herald.

And hot on the heels of launcing his Invasion, The Zombie Chronicles author James Melzer has dropped his new freeform podcast, Unleashed. Two episodes in one week, including a frank and funny interview with Jack Wakes Up author Seth Harwood. I was surprised by the tone of this interview, which was a lot more open than I've come to expect from author interviews in the past. Never have I heard a heard an author slam his publisher so hard in public. To anyone who is either a writer or an aspiring podcaster, this interview is a must to listen to.

If you have a podcast novel or other online fiction event that you think I should know about, especially in the audio world, leave me a comment with a link and I'll check it out. You can also find me on Twitter.