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 or (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, 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; 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 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 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.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Exquisite Corpse

This entry is part of an on-line exquisite corpse – a short story told in 10 installments by 10 different authors. My 250 word installment is below; if you’re interested in writing the next part, scroll down to the bottom of this post for details on how this all works…

— — —


had companions. Drifting over the ridge, a dozen bulbous creatures with buzzing gossamer wings and grasping claws darkened the sky. Dianne and Peter sank to the ground, watching the nightmare creatures pass over.

Peter’s eyes grew wide. “The lodge,” he muttered, fear staining his voice, “Dad!” He pulled out the satphone and punched a speeddial, biting his lip as the phone connected.

“Bruce here,” came the answer, his father’s voice slick with whiskey. Peter groaned inwardly. Taking a deep breath, he told Bruce what he wanted him to do.


Bruce hung up and tossed the phone aside. Damn kids had been trying for god-knows-how-long to get him out of his lakeside lodge. Well, screw them. He’d worked hard all his life, and he was damn well going to retire where he pleased. What, did they think he’d gone nuts?

Turn on the gas in the kitchen?

Take a rifle and get into the woods, with a clear shot at the lodge?

They couldn’t convince him to retire to a village with the other old-timers, so they wanted him to what? Blow up his house?

Screw them.

Bruce poured another dram of scotch and picked up the TV remote. A noise like helicopters reached him, and he punched up the volume. The noise increased, and Bruce turned to look over the ridge, swearing.

The tumbler slipped from his fingers, smashing on the timber floor.

The darkness of the swarm filled his vision. Bruce stood, shaking, reaching for his

— — —

This is part 6 of 10. You can find the other installments here (but DON’T DO THIS YET if you want to join in):

1. (26 June 2009)
2. (27 June 2009)
3. (29 June 2009)
4. (1 July 2009)
5. (1 July 2009)
6. (2 July 2009)

WANT TO READ IT? Jump back to the previous entries using the links above.

WANT TO JOIN IN? This exquisite corpse operates on a first-come, first-served basis. If you want to write the next installment, FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS:

1.IMPORTANT – Don’t read any of the previous entries! Read only the one you see here.

2.ALSO IMPORTANT – Post a comment here, saying “I claim the next entry”, followed by the URL/web address of your blog. If you don’t do this, we’ll never know where to find you.

3.Copy the text of this blog entry into a new post on your blog, but DELETE THE CHAPTER and write your own as the next installment. Start with the chapter number as I’ve done here, and start exactly where the last chapter left off (in mid-sentence if necessary).

4.Your entry should be EXACTLY 250 words long, unless you are writing chapter 10, in which case you must bring the story to a conclusion in 250 words or less.

5.At the end of the chapter, where the text reads: “This is part X of 10″, change this to the number of your chapter.

6.Add the URL/web address of your blog and today’s date onto the list below that, so people reading later entries can jump back to your chapter.

7.Finish your chapter and post it within 24 hours of claiming your place. There – it’s freaking easy! You can go back and read the rest of the story now.

8.IF YOU’VE JUST FINISHED ENTRY #10 and finished the story, DELETE THESE INSTRUCTIONS from the bottom of your post – they’ll just confuse people. ALSO, let CG know by posting a comment on the first entry (on, or sending him an email on CG will assemble a full version and send it round to all of the contributors.